Acts of the Apostles 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.
2 Timothy 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.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
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.”
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Because of the importance of these two great saints, their celebration becomes more important than the celebration of the regular Sunday with its readings. This does not happen every year, but just once in a while.
Two of the readings today, the first one and the Gospel, are about Saint Peter. The first reading tells us about his miraculous escape from prison because an angel came and freed him. The Gospel tells us why Saint Peter is so important in our Christian history: Saint Peter proclaims clearly about Jesus that he is the Christ and the Son of the living God. Jesus in His turn says that he will establish His Church on Peter.
Anyone who reads the New Testament cannot help but understand Peter. Peter is always presented as a fully human person who makes lots of mistakes, but who is so loyal to Jesus that it can take our breath away. With all of his human defects, Peter believes so strongly and is willing to give His life for Jesus—which eventually he does.
Saint Paul seems a much more complex character! He is so strong in his opposition to the early Christians! He is a religious zealot! When he is converted to Christianity, he is just as strong now in favor as he used to be opposed. He always tends to preach first to the Jewish population. Slowly he comes to understand Christ more and more and begins to preach to the non-Jewish peoples, where he has great success.
He begins a series of what we now call “missionary” journeys. In this second letter to Timothy, which is the second reading today, we have Paul’ own testimony to God’s work within him.
As we think about these two great apostles in the early Church, we can wonder about our own energies to proclaim Jesus as our Lord and as the Christ. Each of us who follow Jesus has a responsibility to make Him known. Each of us can do that in our own way, whether that way is public and well-know or more private and quiet.
Always this proclamation of Jesus must begin with our own faith: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.