About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.
The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Today, as a Church, we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. These two men are recognized today as two great pillars of the Church for one important reason: they proclaimed Jesus as the Christ. It might sound simplistic to state their significance in this way, but making such a proclamation brought these men to many places, through many trials, and ultimately cost them their earthly lives, securing their salvation. They lived in the world when people either knew who Jesus was and believed or disbelieved he was God, or believed in God but had never heard of Jesus, or did not know either God or Jesus. In all things, these apostles told and retold and retold the story of all of our salvation. It was their mission to give all humanity the answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
As members of the Church, we are all entrusted with the same apostolic mission. Just as Saints Peter and Paul had to introduce people to Jesus as a person, as the Messiah, as the Holy One of God, we also are called to introduce him to those who have not yet encountered him. In the modern world, we are more likely to meet those who have heard of Jesus but either disbelieve he is God or do not understand what he means for their life. We may need to tell and retell and retell the story of salvation. We may be ridiculed and persecuted. We may encounter dangers and trials and difficulty in this life. But if we can make St. Paul’s words our own, that we have fought the good fight, that we have finished the race, that we have kept the faith, we can trust that we who have brought Jesus to others will be brought into the kingdom of heaven by Jesus.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, you are God, and we praise you. We acknowledge you as our Lord. Heavenly Father, as we keep our eyes fixed on you and on your Son, Jesus, may the Holy Spirit guide our every word and action. Strengthen us for your mission and help us to proclaim your name to all those we meet. Help us to remain faithful to you every day so that we may fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith. Amen.