Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles (June 29)

Readings: Acts 12:1-11 -- 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 -- Matthew 16:13-19

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Today the Church celebrates two of the principle Apostles of the Lord: Saints Peter and Paul. The first reading tells us of the miraculous deliverance of Peter from prison. From its earliest days, Christians were troublesome to the powers that be. All that talk of tearing down the powerful and building up the poor, well, it is unsettling, that's what it is. It made the rich and powerful (then and now) fearful, worried -- what can we do to stop this spreading rot? -- they may have asked themselves. One solution -- murdering and locking up the leaders -- was tried, but it was hard to keep Peter in jail.

In the second reading, Paul -- writing at the end of his life -- briefly summarizes his own "pouring out" of his life as a libation. Early in his ministry, Paul had included a Christian hymn when writing his letter to the Church in Philippi, which spoke of Christ emptying himself to become one with humanity. As Christ had poured himself out for all humans, Paul had followed his example. Paul had been part of the ruling establishment -- he was present at the stoning of the first martyr, St. Steven. But a blinding vision of the resurrected Jesus turned him into a missionary, evangelist, and catechist, an Apostle of the one he had hated and scorned.

Our Gospel today recounts the confession of Peter that Jesus was the Messiah, and the conferring upon him of the "keys of the kingdom", a foundational text for the ordained priesthood and episcopal governance of the Church. From this source of teaching authority and responsibility, throughout history popes and bishops have written about issues of justice and peace; in this century, those writings have become increasingly explicit, compelling, and there can be no doubt about their authoritative nature.

So on this day when we celebrate and remember the ministries of these great apostles, let us call to mind the importance of the just exercise of authority. The source of just authority is the Lord Jesus Christ, whose example of servant leadership should inspire us all. Our Lady of Guadalupe, protector of all those who are victims of unjust authority, comfort the poor and confound those who would wage war upon them.

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