Today is the great Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles. The readings today inspire humility and to a life of constant conversion toward Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel, we receive confirmation from Jesus Christ that Peter is the head of His Church here on earth.
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.
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.” – Today’s Gospel from Matthew 16
But this story would not be as great as it is without first recalling Peter’s denial of Jesus during the Passion. Recalling Peter back to His true mission, He asked Peter to reaffirm three times, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. For even great sinners, as we all are, can be fully reconciled with God and be given the keys to the kingdom.
In 64 A.D., Peter was jailed in Rome. (His jailers, Sts. Processus and Martinian later converted). To Saint Peter’s own disbelief, angels led him out of prison on the eve of his trial. Peter then began to flee the city to avoid further persecution but saw Jesus along the way. Jesus told Peter that He would return to Rome to be crucified again essentially saying ‘if you won’t, I must do it again’ – thus giving Peter the strength to go back and continue converting people to Christianity even at the risk of crucifixion, which happened later that year.
Saint Paul who was once a great persecutor of Christians, converted and became an unashamed promoter of Jesus Christ. We are called to be the light of the world, but it is not without consequence. In today’s second reading, Paul tells us of his impending martyrdom
“I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.” II Timothy 4:6
The faith in Jesus Christ is a sustaining one. And even in the hardest of times, these men found their courage in Christ and remind us to do the same. Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.