Learning from Saints Peter and Paul’s Callings, Belonging to Christ, Profession of Faith and Martyrdoms, Solemnity of SS. Peter & Paul, June 29, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul
June 29, 2015
Acts 12:1-11, Ps 34, 2 Tim 4:6-8.17-18, Mt 16:13-19

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • During this Year of Consecrated Life, the first in the history of the Church, every solemnity is therefore unique and gives us an angle by which to look anew at the feast and from the feast learn something new about the consecrated life. Today on the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul, we can look at four truths of the consecrated life from within the rich spectrum of their lives and learn from these two great pillars of the Church: first, their calling and conversion; second, their sense of belonging to the Lord; third, their proclamation of the Gospel; and fourth their martyrdom.
  • First, their calling. Peter was called by Christ after the miraculous catch of the loaves and fish resulting from his faith to put out into the deep water in broad daylight and lower his nets for a catch when he knew that fish were caught on the Sea of Galilee in shallow water in darkness. But he did it and caught the biggest catch of his life. His response was, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man!” But Jesus’ reply was, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching men.” Peter’s vocation came as a result of his faith and sorrow. Likewise Paul’s calling happened as a result of conversion. Paul wasn’t living a bad life per se, just a different understanding of a holy life, that of the Pharisees based on completion of the works of the law. He was so zealous that he had walked 117 miles north to rip Christians out of their homes in this Syrian capital. But the Lord confronted him, said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?,” and led him on the road to conversion. Jesus likewise calls us when we’re sinners, gives us the grace of conversion and then sends us out, like he sent them, to show that Christ came to call sinners. We become living advertisements. During this Year of Consecrated Life which will finish toward the beginning of the Year of Mercy, this reality of being called while the Lord is forgiving us is something we should all ponder all the more. Pope Francis’ motto, Miserando atque Eligendo, focuses on this connection.
  • Second, their sense of belonging to Christ. The nature of the consecrated life is a “transfer of ownership,” as Pope Benedict used to say, a giving of oneself entirely to Christ. We see this sense of belonging in St. Peter’s leaving his home, leaving his boats, leaving his biggest catch, leaving his mother-in-law and basically everything to follow Christ, or as St. Mark his future secretary would write, to “be with him” and then be sent out. To be with Jesus is the nature of the consecrated life and that’s what St. Peter did for three years. When he was instructing the early Church about the criteria for the selection of the apostle to take Judas Iscariot’s place, he said that the man needed to be someone “who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us” (Acts 1:21-22). Peter spent all that time with the Lord. Similarly St. Paul after his conversion lived intimately with Christ. He would eventually say that the life he was living he was living by faith in the Son of God. He summarized his existence by saying, “For me to live is Christ.” Everything was about his sense of belonging to the Lord. The same Lord wants to share our life. That’s what we seek to intensify this year.
  • Third, their proclamation of the Gospel. St. Peter’s confession of the Lord can be summarized by his responses to Jesus’ three great questions. To “Who do you say that I am?,” Peter confessed him not just to be the long-desired “Messiah” but also the “Son of the Living God,” God himself. To “Will you also leave me?,” after Jesus explained that we needed to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have life, Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” And to his query, “Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?,” Peter replied, “Lord, you know all things you know that I love you.” Like St. Peter, we’re called to profess Jesus as the long-desired and Son of God, to proclaim that he has the Words of Eternal Life and we’ll cling to him, and to proclaim by our choices that we love him more than the rest. All of these are part of a Christian witness. Paul’s proclamation took on dramatic proportions as well. After having preached Jesus as the Messiah and fulfillment of the prophecies in synagogues, after having announced him as the “unknown God” whom the pagans were seeking, he began to essentialize his message and proclaim and know “nothing by Christ and him crucified” as the “power and wisdom of God.” He began to proclaim that Christ on the Cross was the Good News, the manifestation of God’s power and wisdom in loving above all. We, too, are called to make this proclamation, and consecrated men and women do it through the evangelical counsels in a special way. Through poverty they crucify themselves to the good things of the world in order to find in Christ and his kingdom their true treasure; through chastity they forsake the great gifts of marriage and family in order to love Christ above all; through obedience they put to death the desire for autonomy and learn obedience, even to death on the Cross in union with the obedient Christ. To preach Christ crucified is to preach the chaste, poor and obedient one, something that consecrated men and women do par excellence. All people are called on this Solemnity during this Year of Consecrated Life to do the same.
  • The fourth connection is about death. Peter proclaimed in his death his great faith in and love for the Lord. We know that Peter said during the Last Supper that even if he had to die he would never betray the Lord, but then did betray because of his weak flesh. He wasn’t willing to say to Jesus that he loved him agapically after the resurrection, but only as a friend, but Jesus prophesied that when he got older he would have his hands stretched out and be dragged to a place he didn’t want to go, signifying with a Greek idiom that he would be crucified, having followed Christ all the way to death. He entered into Christ’s death by his own, upside down on a Cross in the Circus of Caligula and Nero, October 13, 64 AD. We’re all supposed to proclaim our faith in Christ’s triumph over death by the way we die. The eschatological dimension of the consecrated life does this. Likewise we see the way St. Paul would die in today’s epistle. With great eloquence, St. Paul said, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” He was always fighting for Christ, recognizing that it was a good fight. He wasn’t going to win every round, but he kept getting up off the canvass. That fidelity made his strong to the end. He finished the race, meaning he was always working with urgency, because the love of Christ was urging him on to victory. And he kept the faith, precisely by living it and passing it on. For each of us we have a similar vocation in preparation for death. Each day we’re called to answer the bell and fight for Christ, fight against the Old Adam in us, fight against principalities and powers, fight for the kingdom. We’re called to live the day with a holy urgency as if it were our last. And we’re called to keep the faith that day by seeking to have it grow and pass it on. St. Paul finished the race and won it by a “head,” his own, gloriously cut off for the faith at Tre Fontane, the woods to the south of the city of Rome. And because of that, as he said, he is now adorned with a “crown of righteousness,” which he says will also await us if we wait for Christ like he did and fight Christ’s good fight.
  • All of these truths come to their focus here at Mass, where the Lord Jesus calls us and helps us convert, where we renew our belonging to him and his belonging to us, where we profess him as the Lamb of God, the Messiah and Son of God, the One with the Words of Eternal Life, the One we love above all, where he strengthens us and sends us out to proclaim him, and where he helps us to die to ourselves so that he may live within us as our life. St. Peter was present when Jesus took bread and wine during the Last Supper and converted it into his Body and Blood. St. Paul used to celebrate the Mass for the early Church, reminding them always that is is a Communion in Christ’s body and blood that makes us one body, one spirit in Christ. As we prepare to receive Christ today, we ask through the intercessions of Saints Peter and Paul, for the grace of a renewed consecration to him like we see in these two princes of the Church, so that through that consecration we might come to share their imperishable wreaths and joy at Christ’s right side!

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 Acts 12:1-11

In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them.
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.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (5) The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
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.

Reading 2 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.

Alleluia Mt 16:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
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.”

Sts Peter & Paul Greco