Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul
June 29, 2014
Vigil Mass: Acts 3:1-10, Ps 19, Gal 1:11-20, Jn 21:15-19;
Mass During the Day: Acts 12:1-11, Ps 34, 2 Tm 4:6-8.17-18, Mt 16:13-19
To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below:
The following text guided the homily:
Saintly Profiles in Courage
Today we celebrate two of the most important persons who have ever lived. Without them, we probably wouldn’t be here right now in this Church worshipping God, because it was their response to Jesus’ calling, their fidelity, their perseverance, their love for God and their desire to share his salvation that helped to build the Church and start the expansion of the Gospel so that eventually it would reach us. Today we could ponder the moving stories of St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s conversions, callings, and commissioning. We could examine their preaching and writing. We could talk about their missionary journeys as a fisher of men and teacher of the nations. We could learn from their virtues. We could look into their friendship and famous confrontation.
But since today we celebrate their martyrdoms — Peter’s by crucifixion in the Circus of Caligula and Nero and Paul’s by beheading in the forest of Aquae Salviae south of Rome — I would like to focus above all on their courage because it is very much a virtue that we as American Catholics need. We’re now more than half-way through the Fortnight for Freedom, a two-week period of intense prayer, fasting, study and witness led by the US Bishops in response the multiple incursions against religious freedom happening in our country. The reason why we need the Fortnight is that as the attacks against freedom of religious have been mounting over the past few decades and especially over the last several years, the vast majority of American Catholics have not been responding courageously. The Fortnight is taking place between June 21 and July 4 for two reasons. First, during these two weeks the Church celebrates some of the most courageous martyrs in her history, Saints Thomas More, John Fisher, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, the early Roman Martyrs, Thomas and others. Second, at the end of the Fortnight, we recall on the Fourth of July the millions of Americans whose courage on the battlefield and in other venues made our country the land of the free and home of the brave, who have helped forge our nation to be one nation under God. Their example, combined with the example of the great Christian martyrs, is meant to inspire in us — as we pray in the Religious Freedom Prayer that the US Bishops have asked us to offer to God each day — “the strength of mind and heart readily to defend our freedoms when they are threatened” and “the courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience o all people of faith.”
Prepared for Persecution
Courage. Jesus had spoken to us about the courage we’d need to be a Christian during the Last Supper when he said,“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (Jn 15:18-20). Saul before his conversion would be one of the fiercest persecutors of the early Church, presiding over the stoning of St. Stephen, ripping Christians out of their homes and bringing them for trial, and even getting a commission to go to Damascus, Syria, 135 miles away by foot, to arrest the Christians there. This was just the beginning of many waves of persecution. After his conversion, Paul himself would be hunted down for assassination by the very ones with whom he used to collaborate. As we see in the first reading for today’s feast, Peter would be imprisoned and threatened by the very ones who had gotten Jesus crucified. And that would be before the Romans would get involved later and Nero would try to scapegoat the Christians for the fire of Rome he himself had set so that he could rebuild the city to his own glory and other emperors would join in 13 ferocious anti-Christian persecutions before Christianity was legalized in 313.
Fighting the Good Fight
Courage. St. Paul wrote about courage in his spiritual will and testament to his young convert St. Timothy in today’s second reading. He said, “I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation and the time of my departure is at hand.” He was about to die after having spent his post-converted life pouring out all he had for Christ and for others. “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” He had bravely fought the good fight. He had fought for God. He knew there was a battle and in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, he described how arduous that battle was: “Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned [and left for dead, but the prayers of the first Christians with Barnabas in Galatia raised him from the dead], three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure (2 Cor 11:24-27). That was the fight he fought to pass on the faith. It would have been very easy for him to have stayed as a tent maker in Tarsus, pondering the Scriptures, getting a good night’s rest in his own bed. He could have simply never engaged the fight or retired early, saying after three scourgings, two shipwrecks and other dangers that it was somebody else’s turn. But his entire life he fought for Christ against “principalities and powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Eph 6:12).
And he did so with urgency: “I have finished the race.” Many crawl through life, others inch at a time. Others slide back. Still others sightsee and get distracted by everything along the way. Paul recognized that he had one life to give and he ran, with zeal, in order to spread the faith to as many as he could until his time was up.
And most importantly he says, “I kept the faith!” He kept it by passing it on as of the “first importance” (1 Cor 15:3). It wasn’t easy, but he knew that the faith was worth his life, that it was the greatest gift he could give to anyone.
Christ: the Source of Courage
And he shows all Christians how to suffer courageously for the faith. He was able to undergo so much and not lose heart not because he had a superhuman constitution, but because he was suffering together with Christ. He would write to the Philippians, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). He was able to maintain his strength because of his union with the Lord, a union that grew stronger not weaker whenever he suffered. “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). These persecutions and sufferings conformed him to Christ to such a degree that they helped perfect his union with Christ. He would write to the Galatians that through the Cross he had picked up every day, “The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” His union became so strong that he was able to say, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Gal 2:19-20). And he knew that union in suffering was helping Jesus redeem the human race. “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24).
He teaches us a crucial lesson for when we suffer on account of our faith — one that also is useful whenever we undergo any other type of physical, psychological, familial or moral suffering. To suffer with courage, we need, like St. Paul, to unite ourselves to Christ through that suffering so that in our weakness we may be strengthened by Christ to fight, to run and not only to keep the faith but to spread it through our example of faith under trial.”
A second chance to be courageous
But this is obviously challenging and we can all be discouraged by the times that, rather than respond with courage, we’ve betrayed the Lord: we have stayed silent when others have uttered blasphemies; we’ve done nothing when we saw someone innocent being attacked or abused; we’ve minded our own business when we should have stopped as Good Samaritans to those who are hurting, we’ve allowed others to impose their immorality on society when we know Jesus has sent us out to be salt, light and leaven of that society. If we haven’t been courageous in the past, today’s feast is an important grace for us to see that and how the Lord gives us a second chance.
We see those lessons in one of the most important scenes in the life of St. Peter. We remember what happened with him during the Last Supper. After Jesus had said both, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me,” and, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed [for you, singular] that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers,” Peter replied, “Even though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be,” and “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” But Jesus warned Peter about his bravado:“I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me” (Mt 26; Lk 22). And we know that that’s exactly what happened. Three times in the high priest’s courtyard, Peter denied even knowing Jesus. He not only lied, but to some degree, he apostasized. He denied the Lord. He denied his faith: “I do not know the man!” The reason, as Jesus would say to him in the Garden of Gethsemane, was because the “spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Peter thought that he would give his life for the Lord. He certainly loved the Lord enough to die for him, but when the going got rough and he was confronted in the courtyard by a “waitress with an attitude” as Cardinal Sean O’Malley is accustomed to say — we need to work him into the homily today on his 70th birthday! — Peter lost his boldness because his flesh was cowardly. He didn’t even realize what he was doing until the cock crowed and the Lord, coming out through the courtyard in chains, looked at him. It was then that Peter went out and wept bitterly.
But it’s important for to see that Jesus didn’t leave him there. As we hear in today’s Gospel, Jesus had made him, despite his human frailties, the rock on whom he was going to build his Church and Jesus needed to reconstitute him. And in the Gospel for the Vigil Mass of this Feast we see how. After an incognito Jesus from the shore reminded Peter of the beginning of his vocation through the miracle of the miraculous catch of fish in deep water during daylight (when fish were normally caught in shallow water at nighttime) by having him cast his empty nets at dawn over the other side of the boat, leading to catching 153 fish, Peter jumped into the water and swam to shore to meet the Lord. It was at that first miracle that Jesus had invited Peter to leave everything to become a fisher of men. Here Jesus was going to make him a shepherd after his own heart. In response to his three-fold denial on Holy Thursday, three times Jesus asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Three times he replied that he did. And the Lord after each response entrusted to him his sheep and lambs to be fed and guarded. Many saints and commentators have noted that this was Jesus’ opportunity to give Peter a second chance and to right each wrong of denial. That’s true up until a point, but there’s something much deeper going on in this scene that shows the depth of Peter’s pain and the love of the Lord Jesus to help him regain his courage. In order to see it, though, you need to know a little Greek, because the words that Jesus and Peter use for love are different.
There are four Greek words for love: storge (affection and attachment), eros (romantic love), philia (the true love of friends) and agape (a total self-sacrificial type of love, as shown by Jesus for us on the Cross). When Christ first asks Peter “Do you love me more than these,” he says, “Agapas me?, which means, “Do you love me with a total self-sacrificial type of love?” Peter, doubtless still downcast for having promised to die for Jesus only to deny him, replied, “Kyrie, su oidas oti philo se.” “Lord, you know that I love you like a friend.” The same dialogue happened a second time. Jesus asked, “Do you love me enough to die for me?” Peter replied, “Lord, you know I love you as a friend.” In the third time, Jesus downgraded his word for love saying, “Simon, Son of John, phileis me?” “Do you love me as a friend?” That’s why Peter was hurt. He was ashamed at being called out. And he said, “You know all things, Lord. You know that I love you as a friend.” Jesus grasped that Peter was unwilling to promise more than his weak flesh could deliver. He met him where he was at but didn’t leave him there. He lifted him higher with a prophecy. He said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” St. John tells us that he was describing by the phrase “stretch out your hands” which was a Greek idiom for being crucified, how Peter would glorify God by his death. Jesus was indicating that in the end Peter would actually love the Lord with a total self-sacrificial type of love.
And that’s precisely how Peter would die, with great courage for the Lord. When he was being prepared for martyrdom among 3,000 other Christians by Nero and his henchmen as scapegoats for the fire that destroyed Rome that Nero had set, there were three ways the Christians died, as a 7 year old witness, Tacitus, would later write in his annals. They were covered with wild beast skins and torn to death by dogs. Others were covered with flammable liquid and lit on fire to serve as living lamps for the circus races at night. And the third group was crucified. Peter was one of those chosen to be crucified. But as he was preparing to be killed, he gave his executioners one last request: to crucify him upside down because he didn’t consider himself worthy to be crucified right-side up as Jesus had been 34 years earlier outside the city gates of Jerusalem. The sadistic executioners gladly assented because it would be a much more painful way to die. In crucifixion you die not because of the literally excruciating pain, but by asphyxiation. You can’t breathe. And when you flip somebody upside down, the diaphragm, essential for breathing, doesn’t function very well upside down. And so for the last few hours of St. Peter’s life, he would have been suffering not only the pains of crucifixion — the most painful torture even developed by the Romans — but also the equivalent of drowning at the same time. Before he had said that he would die for the Lord only to go out and deny him. This time, even though he was hesitant to say the same thing and promise that he loved the Lord enough to die, e he actually died with incredible courage and devotion.
Following Christ’s example of suffering
St. Peter wrote to the members of the early Church about courage in a letter that he sent out shortly before his death. “Although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, it’s so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.… If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.” And that’s precisely what St. Peter did, following Jesus as someone else stretched out his arms in crucifixion and following him all the way home to heaven.
Like Saints Peter and Paul, like so many early disciples who lived their faith in times of persecution, Christians always need the virtue of courage. Jesus left us an example of suffering so that we will know how to suffer in union with him and so come to reign with him in glory. Sometimes the greatest way we spread the faith is by the witness that Jesus, who suffered for us, is worth suffering for in return, that he who died for us is worth living for and dying for as well.
This witness is still being given today. You may have been hearing the story of Mariam Ibrahim, the young Sudanese wife and mother who has been on death row in Khartoum nursing her child. Her Muslim father abandoned her Christian mother soon after she was born. She was raised Christian and eventually married an American Christian. But because her father was Muslim, she was accused by a Muslim who discovered she was his relative of apostasizing from her Muslim faith and was sentenced to scourging for sleeping with her husband (the crime of fornication for a Muslim to sleep with a non-Muslim) and to death for marrying him. She was pregnant with her second child when the sentence happened and was allowed to live for as long as she was gestating and nursing her baby. As soon as the child was weaned, she would be executed. There was an international outrage and she was freed this week. But what is impressive is that she was given multiple opportunities to save her life, which she could have done in two ways. She could have divorced her husband and lived, but she didn’t, because she had promised to be true to him in good times and in bad all the days of her life. She also could have renounced her Christian faith, but she likewise refused, even though failure to do so would mean her death, even though it would lead to her children growing up without a mom and her husband’s being a young widower. She was faithful to her husband but even more so to Christ. She suffered with Christ, entrusting herself to him who had died for her. And this week, thanks be to God, she was released, thanks to the intervention of the Europeans. But the lesson for us is that this simple, young Christian woman, who never received the same quality religious instruction we did in Catholic schools or religious education programs, was willing to suffer and die out of love for Christ in the most harrowing of circumstances. What an example for us all!
Next week, we’ll have another great witness of Christian courage. Fr. Stephen Gitonga will be coming from the Archdiocese of Nyeri, Kenya, to preach our annual missionary appeal. In his region of Kenya, Christians are growing by leaps and bounds in spite of terrible persecution from murderous Muslim fanatics. Two weeks ago 48 Christians were killed in an anti-Christian attack in the town of Mpeketoni. Two years ago, gunmen tossed grenades into a Church in Garissa while Mass was going on, waiting outside the Church with automatic weapons to shoot the Christians as they were attempting to flee the explosions. Young girls are being kidnapped from schools and married to Muslim men with forced attempts to get them fearfully to convert to Islam. Even schools are being attacked. But the Christians continue to practice the faith with courage. They refuse to be intimidated to give up their faith or to stop loving the Lord and others. We’ll hear some of their stories next week and how the Church in Nyeri, Kenya, is trying to form more catechists to go out to teach, to build a new wing of a seminary because so many are seeking to become priests to take the place of the priests who have been killed, how they’re caring for the millions of refugees coming from Somalia fleeing the persecution there, and how they’re tending for the young children with AIDS and HIV from the AIDS epidemic, when so many others would just let the children die. Their Christian courage likewise ought to inspire Catholics across the world.
The Courage Required of Us During and Beyond the Fortnight for Freedom
Now we come to our own situation. We’re now in the middle of the Fortnight for Freedom and we need to ask if we are behaving courageously in response to the threats that are nothing in comparison with what Peter and Paul endured, or Miriam Ibrahim, or our spiritual siblings in Kenya. We’re in a situation in which medical students training to be doctors and nurses are being forced to participate in abortions in various medical schools against their conscience. Are we going to stick up for them who are courageously resisting or one we going to let those who think medicine shouldn’t be used to kill innocent fellow human beings to be driven out of health care? We have business owners — bakers in Colorado, photographers in Nevada, owners of a banquet hall in New Jersey — who are getting sued because they don’t want to cooperate in so-called gay marriages. Are we going to defend their courageously living by conscience, or are we going to let them get bulldozed? Our bishops are speaking out against all types of infractions against religious liberty, as our many priests and leading Catholic lay people, but are we going to join them or remain on the sidelines? Over the course of the last few decades we’ve allowed those in public office to take away our ability to pray at graduations or footballs games or even to mention God in schools. We can talk to kindergartners now about homosexuality but we can’t speak to them about God? That would never have been allowed had Christians courageously stepped up.
And we have to get specific about what is happening in the present presidential administration. Over the course of the three years of these Fortnights for Freedom, we have pondered outrageous incursions against religious freedom coming from our president and his collaborators, and we need to ask we’ve done anything about it, whether we’re going to do anything about it, or whether we’re just going to lie down and let these attacks go unanswered.
- The administration threatened the US Bishops’ Migration and Relief Services committee for cutting off all their help with sex-trafficking victims unless the MRS promised to refer these teenage girls sold into prostitution for abortions.
- It threatened Catholic Relief Services with losing any federal support in disaster relief — like we’ve done in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, in Haiti after the earthquake, in Indonesia and Japan after the terrible earthquakes — unless we push abortion. The help that CRS gives us considered less important than promoting abortion and unless Catholics promote abortion, we’ll receive no assistance to do what CRS and the American Red Cross do better than any other agencies.
- The Department of Health and Human Services interpreted the Affordable Care Act in such a way that Catholic universities, hospitals, social service agencies and many other entities — not to mention Catholic individuals — are responsible for paying for others to have free chemical abortions, sterilizations and contraception.
- And now there’s a new executive order that President Obama’s press spokesman Josh Earnest announced to reporters on June 16, that President Obama has directed his staff to “prepare for his signature an executive order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.” That might sound good because we as Americans are opposed to unjust discrimination because we want everyone to be treated equally, but we also recognize that there’s a right to religious freedom. What this executive order means is that Catholic Social Services in our Diocese, for example, wouldn’t receive a penny from federal tax dollars for any of its programs that serve an obvious common good — housing for the homeless, legal and educational assistance for immigrants, help for the disabled, and so on, programs that have received federal money because independent agencies do these programs better than a government bureaucracy ever would— unless it could prove that it didn’t discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.” So if an out of the closet gay activist who attacked Church teaching on sexuality applied to become the receptionist at the CSS headquarters, or a transgendered transvestite applied for an opening or a marriage counselor for struggling Catholic couples — positions that receive no federal dollars at all — if CSS refused to give them the job and they sued because of discrimination, all of CSS’ contracts would now be at risk.
Why would the President be preparing such an executive order? Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it quite clear in 2009, when she announced that the US was no longer going to defend freedom of religion abroad — something for which the US has a distinguished record! — but instead only “freedom of worship,” meaning the ability to go to Church, synagogue or mosque and to pray on one’s own, but no longer to live according to the ethical consequences that flow from faith. Mrs. Clinton said in a 2009 speech in Georgetown that the chance in policy was in order to promote the “right” for people to “love in the way they choose.” In other words, to smooth the path or those of the same-sex to marry each other, the U.S. government wants to restrict the rights of believers to live according to the values of their revealed religions. The government recognizes that we can either defend religious freedom or we can defend same-sex marriages, but not both because no revealed religion has ever believed that marriage can be a husband-less or wife-less union. And because the administration wants to redefine marriage, they need to restrict the freedom of religious believers to live by our faith — and threaten us with fines, or loss of livelihood and even one day imprisonment unless we begin against our conscience to follow their own secularist values.
But as this has been going on, what have most Catholics been doing? Most of us, sadly, have been doing nothing. Most Catholics continue to vote into office the very people who are abusing their offices to violate the first amendment of the Constitution and take away its protection of religious freedom. If only ten percent of Catholics in American rose up, there’s no way politicians concerned about elections would ever try to do what they’re doing, but far fewer than ten percent have really gotten involved. Most Catholics haven’t been courageous in defending the faith and the rights of Christian individuals and the Church while they have been getting attacked. This Fortnight is a time to change. Jesus says to us, as he said to St. Peter, “Do you apagas me?” It’s a time for us, with St. Paul, to learn how to fight the good fight.
Rejoicing to Share in Christ’s Sufferings
St. Peter wrote to the first Christians, “Since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude … Do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. … Whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name. … Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To him be dominion forever. Amen.”
True to our Faith
Saints Peter and Paul, the early Christian martyrs, Miriam Ibrahim, our Kenyan brothers and sisters and all those Catholics leading the Fortnight for Freedom have received their strength from the same Jesus whom we’re about to welcome on this altar. As we consume Jesus in Holy Communion, we consume his “guts,” his courage, his love for the Father, his love for others, and his love for the truth. He wants to fortify us, like he strengthened Saints Peter and Paul, like he’s reinforced Miriam Ibrahim, like he’s toughening our Kenyan brothers and sisters, like he’s bolstering those on the frontlines of the Fortnight for Freedom. He also wants to strengthen us so that we might be faithful and courageous all our days. Through the intercession of SS. Peter and Paul and all the martyrs and saints throughout the centuries, we pray that we will truly live by the words we sang to begin our prayer today: “Faith of our Fathers, Holy Faith! We will be true to thee till death!”
The readings for the Vigil Mass of the Feast were:
for the three o’clock hour of prayer.
And a man crippled from birth was carried
and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate”
every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple.
When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple,
he asked for alms.
But Peter looked intently at him, as did John,
and said, “Look at us.”
He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.
Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you:
in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”
Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up,
and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.
He leaped up, stood, and walked around,
and went into the temple with them,
walking and jumping and praising God.
When all the people saw the man walking and praising God,
they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging
at the Beautiful Gate of the temple,
and they were filled with amazement and astonishment
at what had happened to him.
PS 19:2-3, 4-5
The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day;
and night to night imparts knowledge.
R. Their message goes out through all the earth.
Not a word nor a discourse
whose voice is not heard;
through all the earth their voice resounds,
and to the ends of the world, their message.
R. Their message goes out through all the earth.
I want you to know, brothers and sisters,
that the Gospel preached by me is not of human origin.
For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it,
but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
For you heard of my former way of life in Judaism,
how I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure
and tried to destroy it, and progressed in Judaism
beyond many of my contemporaries among my race,
since I was even more a zealot for my ancestral traditions.
But when God, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart
and called me through his grace,
was pleased to reveal his Son to me,
so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles,
I did not immediately consult flesh and blood,
nor did I go up to Jerusalem
to those who were Apostles before me;
rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem
to confer with Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days.
But I did not see any other of the Apostles,
only James the brother of the Lord.
–As to what I am writing to you, behold,
before God, I am not lying.
and, when they had finished breakfast, said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
The readings for the Mass of the Day were:
He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword,
and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews
he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
–It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.–
He had him taken into custody and put in prison
under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each.
He intended to bring him before the people after Passover.
Peter thus was being kept in prison,
but prayer by the Church was fervently being made
to God on his behalf.On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial,
Peter, secured by double chains,
was sleeping between two soldiers,
while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison.
Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him
and a light shone in the cell.
He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying,
“Get up quickly.”
The chains fell from his wrists.
The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.”
He did so.
Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.”
So he followed him out,
not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real;
he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first guard, then the second,
and came to the iron gate leading out to the city,
which opened for them by itself.
They emerged and made their way down an alley,
and suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter recovered his senses and said,
“Now I know for certain
that the Lord sent his angel
and rescued me from the hand of Herod
and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”
PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
2 TM 4:6-8, 17-18
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.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.
The Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
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.”