Thursday, 6/29/2017, The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
God’s Plan Will Prevail
First Reading Commentary Acts 12:1-11
The events in today’s reading from Acts of the Apostles might sound like the storyline of a fantasy movie. King Herod Agrippa has already had James killed by the sword and because this was pleasing to the Jews, the king had Peter arrested with intentions of killing him too. But Peter was rescued by an angel who led Peter out of prison in plain view of guards and the gate opened before them by itself. These are not the events of a fantasy. Peters rescue was an act of God.
In taking a close look at this arrest of Peter, we see similarities to the arrest of Jesus. First, Jesus was a Jew. It was His own people who, under the influence of the Pharisees, would pressure Pilate into having Jesus crucified. It was this same Pharisaic Judaism that would cause the Non-Christian Jews to be pleased with the killing of James and the arrest of Peter and they wanted to see Peter killed also.
This shows us that in spite of the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead, in spite of all of the witness and testimony to the Resurrection and in spite of all of the works of the Apostles, there were those who simply would not believe. In spite of the fact that Jesus was a Jew and Scripture being very clear about God sending a Savior and in spite of the fact that Jesus fulfilled Scripture by actually reliving it, there were Jews who would not believe.
I see two reasons for this. 1- The Jews were not expecting the kind of King that Jesus is. They were expecting a worldly king who would physically overthrow their enemies. Therefore, their minds were closed to the fact that Jesus came to save mankind from the damnation of sin and to prepare the way for all of mankind to enter His Kingdom of Heaven. 2- It is not uncommon for us to reject what those who are close to us say. We fail to see how that person can possibly know what they are talking about. That is the way that the Jews looked at Jesus who was the Son of a carpenter and lived a modest and humble life. They just simply could not believe that Jesus could have such wisdom and power.
The second similarity between the arrest of Peter and Jesus is that the arrest took place at the time of the feast of Unleavened Bread—the Passover. Jesus planned for His time to be during the Passover because He made Himself the Sacrificial Lamb for all of us. Just as the Israelites wandered in the desert before reaching the Promised Land of Jerusalem, we are all, wandering in this life trying to reach the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus makes all things new including the Passover Meal which we celebrate at every Mass and the unleavened bread is the Eucharist.
But then we see similarities which are also striking differences. While on the cross, some of the people watching and even one of the criminals who was being crucified with Jesus, challenged Him to save Himself if He really was the King of the Jews. We know that Jesus could have saved Himself and more importantly, Jesus was only on that cross because He allowed Himself to be there. The striking difference is that God sent an angel to rescue Peter.
This was just one more sign for the non-believing Jews and it is one more demonstration of God’s awesome power for all of us. It is also another reminder to us that God will take care of us when we are in trouble. All we need is absolute faith and we know that Peter, the Rock, had that faith.
The other similarity which is also a difference is that the Church prayed fervently for Peter. Believers prayed for Jesus too but Jesus is the Son and does not need us or anyone else to intercede for Him. We, on the other hand, need all of the prayer that we can get. Intercession is a powerful, powerful weapon against the devil's plans of destruction.
After Peter was free, he realized that the Lord had sent an angel to rescue him from Herod and all of those who wanted to see him killed. This arrest of Peter did not weaken him or scare him into stopping his mission of proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel. It only made Peter stronger because he knew that he was doing God’s work and that God would not forsake him even though he would later be arrested again and crucified.
Few of us will ever endure anything like Peter or any of the other martyrs but we can learn from them and their experiences. We can gain strength from their faith. And with this arrest of Peter, we can know that God is always there to rescue us and take care of us. Most of all, we can take comfort in knowing that those who persecute us for our faith cannot keep us from our reward of eternal salvation because God’s plan will always prevail.
Finish the Race
Second Reading Commentary 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
When the time comes for our lives to end here on earth, will we be able to say what Paul said? Will we be able to say that we have competed well, finished the race and kept the faith? Will we know that the crown of righteousness will be given to us when we greet the Lord?
This reading is commonly used at funerals and when we hear it at a funeral; we are hopeful that it is a true statement on behalf of the deceased. We know that this reading is the testimony of Paul when he was awaiting his imminent execution. But when we read this Scripture or listen to it, we should be thinking about ourselves. This reading gives us an opportunity to do a self-examination which should cause us to want to make some changes in our own lives so that we can be closer to God and be able to say what Paul said.
Paul testified that his strength came from the Lord. Paul was not simply telling us where he got his strength. He was telling us that we can do nothing without the Lord’s help. Paul was telling us that we cannot reach the Lord unless the Lord shows us the way and we follow His way.
Then Paul tells us that if we are going to follow the way of the Lord, we have to allow the Lord to use us. The Lord used Paul to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles and by allowing the Lord to do this, Paul was following the path that the Lord had put down before him.
Like Peter, Paul had been rescued by the Lord before when he was saved from the lion. And like Peter, Paul gained strength and a deepening faith because he knew that the Lord would save him from every evil. Paul knew that no matter what happened, he would not be denied eternal life in heaven because the Lord would bring him there safely.
With that kind of faith, none of us can be denied eternal salvation. No matter what anyone says, no matter what anyone does and no matter what happens to us in this life; heaven is ours. This is why today’s reading ends with Paul saying, “To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Who Do You Say That Jesus Is?
Gospel Commentary Matthew 16:13-19
Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets” Then Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Peter was the first among them to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. In doing so, Peter demonstrated his faith and Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father." In other words, Peter did not listen to or pay any attention to what others had to say about who Jesus was. Jesus continued, "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
This is another example of where we see Jesus reliving the Old Testament. In Exodus 33:21-22 the Lord made Moses the rock that would lead the children of Israel to the Promised Land. In today’s gospel, Jesus made Peter the rock of the Church. Moses is the rock of the Old Covenant and Peter is the rock of the New Covenant.
Jesus continued saying to Peter, “I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This is the first of two times that Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation—Confession. Here Jesus gave the authority to absolve sins to Peter. Practicing or not practicing the Sacrament of Confession is a choice. But to flat reject Confession is a rejection of both of the gospels where Jesus institutes it. I have commented on this many times in the past so today, I want to take a closer look at the question: Who do we say that Jesus is?
Some people who do not believe in God will still acknowledge Jesus as being a great man. Most Non-Christians recognize Jesus as being a prophet. Christians know and believe that Jesus is the Son—the second person of the Trinity.
But even if you ask a Christian who Jesus is, you will get different answers. Some will say, “My Lord and Savior or My Redeemer.” Others will say, “The Alpha and Omega.” Still others will say, “The King of Kings” or “God, the Son.” All Christians will attest that Jesus is the Christ. All of these answers are true but none of them are complete. In fact, Jesus is more than we can imagine. It is from Him that all good things come. It is because of Him that eternal salvation is there for us if we choose it.
For those of us who believe, when we consider who Jesus is, we have to remember that there is but one God. Therefore, Jesus is the great “I AM.” As Paul said in today’s second reading, “To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.”