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.”
Psalm 34: 1-8
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
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.
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 we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, we commemorate two saints who faced a great deal of adversity in life to gain glory for the kingdom of God and a place in heaven. Although both men were hated and suffered attacks from their enemies, God gave them supernatural grace and aid to overcome their violent situations, increasing their strength and faith.
Both Peter and Paul are the prime examples of courage in the face of suffering and faith for the kingdom of God. And both men were preserved and rescued from impossible situations by the power of God. In the gospel, Jesus tells Peter he will give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven that surpasses all the powers of hell. He gives him authority to bind and loose evil on earth. And as the psalm says, "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them..." and although Peter is locked up, in chains, between two guards, the angel of the Lord comes and frees him out of the prison.
Paul, in the letter to Timothy, says that he has been rescued from the lion's mouth and been preserved and saved from all evil attacks. He says that he is being 'poured out like a libation', completely emptied of himself as one exhausted from fighting the good fight and finishing the race. In his self-emptying, he praises God for always being by his side to help him proclaim the good news to the Gentiles and claims his heavenly reward he knows is coming to him.
As we examine these two saints and the persecutions they endured, we think about the ways God calls us to courage and trust in him. Courage and faith were essentials in the life of the early Christians and they are important to us today. If we are humble and exalt the Lord we too can say the words, "O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him."
Today, pray for the grace to be like Saints Peter and Paul to strive for the kingdom of God despite the trials, push-back, and persecutions you might face in the world.