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Love for the Church
Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, Mass during the Day
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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to open my heart to understand more deeply who you are as I spend this time in prayer.
- Spiritual Rock Stars: Sts. Peter and Paul are arguably the most important and influential men in the Church and the world, one our first pope, and the other an apostle to the Gentiles. What made them great was not their talent, personalities, or intelligence. They were leaders and saints because they cooperated with the Holy Spirit to do the will of the Lord. This passage gives us an early example of Peter’s sensitivity to the Spirit. He declared Jesus was the son of God, and Jesus called him “Blessed,” adding, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” We need not have a superior intelligence or a winning personality to become a saint. We will be holy to the degree we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in fulfilling God’s will for our lives.
- Our Story of Conversion: In these verses, we are introduced to Peter, the Rock. No longer Simon, Peter is now the foundation of the new Church and the keeper of the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. We can imagine Peter’s awe at having had such a powerful experience of the Spirit, his surprise at the words of Jesus’ anointing, and perhaps a bit of trepidation at the responsibility to bind and loose, if he even understood it at that moment. Peter’s whole ministry was ahead of him and he likely felt zealous and empowered. We can presume so, because a few verses later Peter was rebuked by Jesus when he boldly objected to the prediction of Jesus’ Passion (Matthew 16:22-23). In today’s second reading we heard Paul speaking toward the end of his ministry about being “poured out like a libation” (2 Timothy 4:6). Paul was looking back over his life’s work, affirming that “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” (2 Timothy 4:17). Their story of their journey from obscurity to sainthood is our story too. Like Peter and Paul, we one day awoke to the spirit-filled realization that we are personally, unconditionally loved by God. Over time, we exchanged our initial zealousness for a faithful determination to accomplish our unique unrepeatable mision. We are strengthened by prayer, the sacraments, and our community of believers, until one day we say, like St. Paul, “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” As we work day after day in the Church’s field hospital (Pope Francis, Feb. 5, 2015), may we draw consolation from these words of St. Paul: “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 (2 Timothy 4: 6-8).
- The Papacy: Jesus gave Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and the power to bind and loose. With these few words, Jesus revealed much about the future Roman Catholic Church. According to the Catechism 553, “The ‘power of the keys’ designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep.’ The power to ‘bind and loose’ connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the Apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the Kingdom.” Since these words were spoken by Jesus, there has been an unbroken succession of popes leading our Church. We pray for our Holy Father at every Mass and, out of love for the Church, we also include his intentions in our personal prayer.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, you founded the Church on Peter the Rock and named Paul Apostle to the Gentiles. They had illustrious roles in your divine plan for the Church. Help me to appreciate my role in the Church as well. You have called me to the faith and placed me in my parish, my community, and my family as a member of the Church, for which you are the living head. By your grace, may I spread the Kingdom and be a fruitful member of the Church.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will offer an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for the Holy Father.
For Further Reflection: Catechism Article 9: “I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH.
Maribeth Harper celebrated paying the last tuition bill for her kids’ college by writing a book for moms who have college-aged young adults, And So We Pray, Guidance for Moms with College-Aged Young Adults. She is a wife of thirty-five years, mother of four, and grandmother of nine and counting.
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