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SOLEMNITY OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL (Cycles ABC)
June 29th (Mass during the day)

Readings:
Acts 12:1-11
Psalm 34:1-8
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
Matthew 16:13-19

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

The Theme of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul: Faith, Leadership, and Sacrifice
Today we celebrate the mission, martyrdom, and eternal life of two men whose faith, dedication, and leadership are examples of true Christian heroism.  Simon-Peter, called to follow Jesus in the first year of Jesus' ministry, was designated by the Lord as the leader of the twelve Apostles and Christ's Vicar over His Kingdom of the earthly Church.  Paul was not called to discipleship until after Jesus' Resurrection and became the Church's apostle to the Gentiles.  Together Saints Peter and Paul founded the universal Church's geographic center in Rome.  Both men entered into Christ's glory on the same day when they were martyred for their unyielding faith in Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero in circa 67 AD.  The pagan Romans crucified St. Peter upside down as he requested, since he did not consider himself worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Christ.  He was crucified near Vatican hill in the city of Rome.  St. Peter, who was a Roman citizen, was beheaded outside the walls of Rome.(1) Today's entrance antiphon recalls their faith and sacrifice: "These men, conquering all human frailty, shed their blood and helped the Church to grow.  By sharing the cup of the Lord's suffering, they became the friends of God."

The First Reading Acts 12:1-10 ~ God Intervenes to Save St. Peter's Life
1 In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them.  2 He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, 3 and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also.  It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.  4 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.  5 Peter thus was being kept in prison, but prayer by the church was fervently being made to God on his behalf.  6 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.  7 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.  8 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."  9 So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening though the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.  10 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.                                                                                                                                                                                

Jesus renamed Simon "Kepha," which means "rock" in Aramaic and is transliterated in English as "Peter" from the Greek "Petros" (Jn 1:42; Mt 16:17-18).  He was commissioned by Jesus to become the "rock" on which Jesus built His Kingdom of the Church (Mt 16:19; Jn 21:15-19).  After Jesus' Resurrection, St. Peter took up his office as the Vicar of Christ.  First he directed the Apostles to fill the apostolic office vacated by the treachery of Judas Iscariot in Acts 1:15-26.  Then, immediately after God the Holy Spirit took possession of the Apostles and disciples praying in the Upper Room in Jerusalem on the Jewish feast of Weeks/Pentecost, he boldly delivered a public address to the people of Jerusalem, proclaiming Jesus of Nazareth the promised Davidic Messiah (Acts chapter 2).

After St. Peter's homily, the New Covenant Church of Jesus Christ experienced tremendous growth.  Three thousand new converts were added to the Church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and then the number soon increased to five thousand, including Jewish priests, Pharisees, and members of the Sanhedrin like Saul/Paul of Tarsus who had at one time persecuted Christians (Acts 4:4; 8:1; 9:1-19).  The Jews of the Old Covenant felt threatened by the growing influence of those who accepted Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Davidic Messiah, but even the execution of Jesus' followers like St. Stephen (Acts 7) could not discourage the growth of Jesus' Kingdom of the new Israel.  Stephen's martyrdom only served to scatter Jesus' disciples into other parts of Judea, Samaria and into the Gentile lands of Phoenicia, Cyprus and Syria to found new faith communities that reached out to bring Gentiles into the New Covenant in Christ Jesus (Acts 11:19-21).  The Jewish and Gentile faithful at Antioch, Syria was the faith community that sent St. Paul on three missionary journeys to convert the Gentiles and was the first community to call themselves Christians (Acts 11:26). 

Today's first reading is an account of St. Peter's miraculous deliverance after he was imprisoned by King Herod Agrippa I (reigned 41-44 AD), the grandson of Herod the Great.  When Herod the Great died, his kingdom was divided among three of his sons with the eldest son, Herod Archelaus, becoming the ethnarch of Judea.  After the dismal failure of Archelaus to rule Judea, the Romans banished him and reduced Judea to the status of a Roman province.  Roman governors ruled Judea from 6 AD – 44 AD when the Roman Emperor Claudius was instrumental in having Herod Agrippa appointed the King of Judea and the territories of the Galilee, Batanaea and Perea.  Agrippa was raised in Rome but considered himself to be a Jew, and when he became king of Judea he sought to curry favor with the Jews by persecuting Christians.  In circa 42/44 AD he ordered the execution of the Apostle St. James Zebedee and then had St. Peter arrested with the intention of another mock trial and public execution, but God intervened to save His Vicar whose work to spread the Gospel was not yet finished.

In our reading, St. Peter's deliverance by an angel of the Lord can be compared to Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage.  Like Israel, St. Peter is rescued at the feasts of Passover/Unleavened (lasting eight days from Nisan 14-21) from the clutches of a wicked king (Ex 12:1-20, 50), and like the Israelites on the night of their Exodus liberation, Peter is told to gird himself with his belt and to put on his sandals on his feet (Ex 12:11 compared to Acts 12:8).  St. Peter, who was guarded by sixteen Roman soldiers and was chained between two of them, does not immediately understand that he is being rescued from prison by an angel of the Lord.  It takes the urging of a very patient angel to get Peter dressed and moving out of his cell, past the guards who cannot see them and out of the prison's iron gate that opens miraculously.

After escaping from prison, Peter told the Christian community in Jerusalem that it was necessary for him to leave Judea (Acts 12:17).  According to the early history of the Church, St. Peter traveled to Syria and spent seven years with the church at Antioch as his headquarters before traveling to Rome where he established the center of the universal (Catholic) Church that was, by Jesus' command, to extend to the "ends of the earth" (Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8).  St. Peter served for twenty-five years as the first Bishop of Rome and the Pope (Papa/Father) of the universal Church headquartered in the Roman capital.(2)   St. Peter was martyred by crucifixion during the reign of the Emperor Nero in circa 67 AD.  It was the fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy to Peter on the manner of his death: Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."  He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.  And when he had said this, he said to him, "Follow me" (Jn 21:18-19).

Responsorial Psalm 34:1-8
The response is: "The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him."
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth.  Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly will hear me and be glad.
Response:
Glorify the LORD with me, let us together extol his name.  I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Response:
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame.  When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard, and from all his distress he saved him.
Response:
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.  Taste and see how good the LORD is; blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
Response:

The title of this psalm is: Of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who forced him to depart, referring to a time in David's life when his life was in danger and he was completely alone except for God's protection over him (see 1 Sam 21:13-16).  It is to God that David gives credit for his salvation.  When David realized he might be killed, he feigned madness before Achish, the Philistine king of Gath, and managed to escape.  Abimelech ("father is king") in the psalm's title may be the dynastic name for the Philistine king and not a personal name (as in the Abimelech in Gen 20:2-18 who knew Abraham and another Philistine king called Abimelech who knew Isaac in 26:1, 8-16).

The psalm begins by the psalmist proclaiming praise to God for his salvation and inviting those who have also suffered to unite themselves to the Lord (verses 1-3).  The rest of the psalms gives the reasons why the afflicted should do this.  In verses 4-6 the palmist relates a personal experience of affliction and salvation.  He has experienced the power of God in the midst of his distress and bears witness to God's intervention to save him.  On the basis of his experience, he encourages others to experience the goodness of God that he has witnessed (verses 7-8), using a military metaphor ("encamped") and recalling the Angel of the Lord who protected the armies of Israel in the Exodus out of Egypt (Ex 14:19-20) and in the conquest of Canaan (Josh 5:13-15).  The psalmist proclaims that God continues to aid those who fear him (verse 7) and invites his listeners to "taste and see" God's goodness for themselves.  It is an invitation to experience God's intervention in their lives using the language of communion with the One True God as in the Todah ("thanksgiving" in Hebrew) sacred meal that was reserved only for those in covenant with Yahweh. 

This prayer of thanks and trust in the Lord is an invitation to believers in all generations to acknowledge that the Lord is near to those who call upon Him in sincere faith and that no mortal affliction can separate the faithful from the love of God.  It is in our New Covenant communion sacred meal of the Eucharist ("thanksgiving" in Greek) that we also "taste and see" the goodness of God.

The Second Reading 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
6 I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.  7 I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.  8 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 of his appearance.
17 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.  18 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.

St. Paul was born with the Hebrew name "Saul" in the Roman provincial capital of Tarsus in Asia Minor.  He was an officer of the Jewish Sanhedrin (Jewish high court) in Jerusalem who persecuted Christians (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2; 22:3-5).  While on the way to Damascus (Syria) to arrest Christians, Paul came face to face with a vision the resurrected Jesus Christ.  His conversion experience led to his baptism and to a life of service to Christ and His Church as Jesus' apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:3-19; Gal 2:2).  Sponsored by his Christian community in Antioch, Syria, St. Paul led three missionary journeys into Asia Minor and Greece where he successfully preached the Gospel and founded many faith communities.  Later he was arrested in Jerusalem and sent to Rome by the Roman governor of Judea when he made an appeal to Caesar as a Roman citizen (Acts 26:32).  In Rome he was kept under house arrest as he awaited his trial, but he was allowed to teach the Christians of Rome for at least two years from the house in which he was kept (Acts 28:30-31).  After his release, he is believed to have made a fourth missionary journey to spread the Gospel to Spain and perhaps even Britain.  Upon returning to Rome, St. Paul was arrested along with St. Peter during the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Nero (reigned 54-68 AD).  According to Church historians, they were martyred on the same day.  St. Peter was crucified and St. Paul, a Roman citizen, was beheaded.  The year is believed to have been circa 67 AD. 

The Second Reading is from a letter St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy during his last imprisonment just prior to his martyrdom.  In this passage he expresses gratitude to God for past deliverance (probably his first Roman imprisonment) and faith for the final ordeal that will herald his entrance into eternal life.  Paul recognizes that his death is imminent and he regards it as an act of worship in which his blood will be poured out as a sacrifice (Ex 29:38-40; Phil 2:17; 2 Tim 4:6) in which he will have joined Christ in His suffering in order to join Him in glory (Rom 8:17; 12:1).  In verses 7-8 St. Paul uses sports metaphors in comparing his life to a race that he has completed with honor and has won a victory not for himself but for Christ.  He can testify to the accomplishment of what Christ himself foretold concerning him at the time of Paul's conversion experience: "I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name" (Acts 9:16).  St. Paul has confidence that his reward will not be the meaningless laurel crown awarded Roman athletes or victorious generals but that God, the "just judge," will award him with eternal life as Jesus promised the Christians of Smyrna in Asia Minor:  Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer.  Indeed, the devil will throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will face an ordeal for ten days.  Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Rev 2:10).

17 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.  18 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.
Paul says that his commission to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles is a fulfillment of Jesus' command to spread the Gospel to the "ends of the earth" since at this time the Gospel message had reached to the ends of the Roman world (Acts 1:8).  His mention of being saved from "the lion's mouth" may be to be a reference to being saved from death in the Roman arena during his first imprisonment.  In verse 18 St. Paul expresses every confidence that the Lord will save his soul and will bring him into God's heavenly Kingdom.

The Memorial of the Martyrs of Rome under Nero celebrated by the Church on May 30th recalls the nameless saints who died during the same persecution by Nero under which Sts. Peter and Paul were martyred.

The Gospel of Matthew 16:13-19 ~ St. Peter's Profession of the Christ
13 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"  14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"  16 Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  17 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.  18 And so I say to you, you are Peter [Petros], and upon this rock [petra] I will build my Church [ekklesia], and the gates of the netherworld [Hades] shall not prevail against it.  19 I will give you the keys of 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."
 [..] = literal translation (IBGE, vol. IV, pages 47-48).

Jesus led His disciples to the region of Caesarea Philippi, about 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.  Caesarea Philippi was a town (also described as a collection of villages in Mk 8:27) near the southern slope of Mount Hermon on the border with Syria.  It was located in what had been the territory of the Israelite tribe of Dan that was at one time the northern boundary of the Promised Land of Israel.  At this time it was part of the tetrarchy of Herod the Great's son Philip and had a largely Gentile population.  It was near the site of one of the springs that was a source of the Jordan River which was considered to be a spiritual location from the time of the Canaanite inhabitants who built shrines to Baal-gad (Josh 11:17; 12:7; 13:5) and Baal-hermon (Judg 3:3; 1 Chr 5:23) that Jesus gathered His disciples.

After the Greek conquest in the 4th century BC, the Greeks dedicated a shrine to Pan (pagan god of nature, shepherds, flocks, the spring and fertility) at the site where the headwaters of the Jordan River emerged from the ground (Josephus, Antiquities, 15.10.3 [364]).  They also named the nearly town Panias after the Greek god.   Then, in the latter part of the 1st century BC, Herod the Great built a temple to the Roman ruler Caesar Augustus near the source of the Jordan River.  When Herod Philip became the ruler of the region, he rebuilt the small town of Panias into a Hellenistic city, naming it after the Roman Caesar and adding his own name.  In choosing this rocky mountain location to announce the foundation of His Church upon Peter and Peter's proclamation of faith in Jesus as the divine Messiah, Jesus was reclaiming holy ground that had been usurped by the pagans.

In verse 13, using His favorite title for Himself, "Son of Man", Jesus asks the disciples what was the common view of the people concerning His true identity.  They respond that some think He is John the Baptist returned from the dead (like Herod Antipas in Mt 14:2), others think He is the prophet Elijah who was prophesied to herald the coming of the Messiah (Mal 3:23/4:5), while others say Jesus has come in the spirit of the prophet Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.

All of the men mentioned by the disciples were prophets.  While there had been many false prophets, the people realized that the true spirit of prophecy had been absent from the covenant people of God since the prophet Malachi in the 5th century BC.  The coming of God's supreme prophet as promised in Deuteronomy 18:15-19 and an outpouring of God's Spirit (Ez 36:26-27; Joel 3:1-2) were the signs that the people believed heralded the coming of the Messianic Age.  Jesus was teaching with authority, speaking in the symbolic language of the prophets, and performing miracles and symbolic acts like the prophets.  Jesus even referred to Himself as a prophet several times during His ministry (Mt 13:57; Lk 4:24; 7:26; 13:33).

Then Jesus asks His disciples what they believe about His true identity, and it is Peter who confesses that He is not only the Messiah but that He is "the Son of the Living God."  But what does Peter mean by using these titles for Jesus in his confession of faith?  While the usual meaning of the title "son of God" in the Old Testament referred to a form of adoption as "sons" of God for angels, prophets, the children of Israel, and Davidic kings, this is not the way Peter offers his confession of Jesus' true identity.  It is Jesus' response which tells us that Peter understands Jesus' true identity as the divine Son of God the Father (see CCC 441-42).

Matthew 16:17 ~ 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 (emphasis added).
Acknowledging Peter's confession of faith, Jesus blesses him and tells the assembled disciples that Simon-Peter received this knowledge not from any human person ("flesh and blood") but, by the grace of God the Father, Peter has received a divine revelation of Jesus' true nature. 

Matthew 16:18 ~ And so I say to you, you are Peter [Petros], and upon this rock [petra] I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld [Hades] shall not prevail against it.
Jesus was speaking in Aramaic which was the common tongue and the Aramaic translation of the key words for "rock" in Jesus' statement would have been in English: "You are the Rock [Kepha] and upon this rock [kepha] I will build my Church."  In response to Peter's confession of faith, Jesus reaffirms the new name He gave Simon when Jesus first met him on the banks of the Jordan River before He began His ministry in the Galilee.  At that time He said, "You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Kephas" (which is translated Peter) (Jn 1:42; emphasis added; also see Mk 3:16 and Lk 6:14 for evidence an earlier name change.  Kephas is the transliteration of the Aramaic word kepha in the Greek language). 

In the Greek text Matthew uses the masculine Petros for the Greek feminine word for "rock" which is petra.  Bible scholars and historians have not found any evidence that either Kepha or Petros were used as personal names prior to Jesus conferring the name on Simon as the leader of the Apostles to symbolize his change in destiny from humble fisherman to the foundation stone of the Messiah's community of disciples.(3)

Notice that Jesus identified the name of Peter's father as "John" (Yehohanan in Hebrew) in John 1:42 when He first gave Simon the name "Kephas/Kepha."  This same name for Peter's father is also given three other times in John 21:15, 16 and 17.  However, in Matthew 16:17, Jesus calls him Simeon bar Jonah (Matthew uses the Aramaic word for son, "bar" instead of the Hebrew, "ben").  This is the sixth time Jesus has mentioned the Galilean prophet Jonah, symbolically linking the prophet Jonah to Jesus' mission, but this time Jesus links Jonah to Peter's mission (see Mt 12:39, 40, 41 twice, and 16:4 or the chart in Matthew Lesson 16, handout 1). 

If Simon-Peter was the son of a man named "John," then why did Jesus call Peter "Simon son of Jonah"?   It is because Peter's mission and Jonah's mission are alike.  Jonah, like Simon-Peter, was a Galilean.  He was sent by God to the Gentile people of Nineveh, the capital city of the region's super-power, the Assyrian Empire, to tell them to repent and to acknowledge the God of Israel.  Jesus will send Simon-Peter the Galilean to Rome, the capital city of the region's super-power, the Roman Empire, to tell the Gentiles of the Roman world to repent and to accept Jesus as Lord-God and Savior (see Jonah 1:1-2; Mt 16:17). 

It is significant that Jesus changed Simon's name to Kepha = Rock, Petros in Greek.  A change in the name of a servant of God signifies a change in destiny, as in Hoshea's name change to Yehoshua/Joshua (Num 13:16).  In the Old Testament "rock" was a title for God and a word used to describe Abraham as the physical father from whom the children of Israel were hewn (Is 51:1-2).  Rock is not just an adjective used to describe Peter as the spiritual father of the New Covenant children of God.  Jesus uses the word as a personal name signifying a change in Simon's destiny as the leader and foundation "rock" of Jesus' Kingdom of the Church (CCC 881).  The Greek text uses the word ekklesia, meaning "called out."  It is a word meant to define Jesus' assembly of believers.  It is a word that in English is best translated as "Church" and expresses same meaning as the Hebrew word for the assembly of the chosen people of Israel who were the kahal, the "called out" ones: those called out of the world and into covenant with Yahweh at Mt. Sinai.

and the gates of the netherworld [Hades] shall not prevail against it.  Hades is the Greek word for the abode of the dead; in Hebrew it is called Sheol.  The realm of the dead was conceived of as a walled city in which its inhabitants were imprisoned.  In this statement Jesus promises that His Church will not be overcome by the power of death; instead the Church of His heavenly kingdom will overcome death!

Matthew 16:19 ~ I will give you the keys of 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.
Peter receives three spiritual gifts in Jesus' blessing in verses 17-19: Peter is given divine insight, power and authority.  He has the authority to forgive sins or to bind sins (thus controlling the entrance into the heavenly kingdom), and he is commissioned as the leader of the Apostles and the entire community of believers that will become the New Covenant Church.

Jesus has elevated Simon-Peter above his fellow Apostles to be the leader of Jesus' ministers and the Vicar of His Kingdom.  Peter's office that is perpetuated by all the Vicars of Christ who came after him is similar as the office of the vicars/prime ministers who served the Davidic kings of Judah.  The function and authority of one such Davidic vicar named Eliakim is described in Isaiah 22:20-25:

In the same way, Peter is now called to serve as the Vicar of Christ the King and have authority over His Kingdom of Heaven on earth, the Church, which is the "household/family of Christ.  Jesus giving Peter the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" is Peter's official elevation to the office of Vicar of Christ's Kingdom and the shepherd of the whole flock (also see Jn 21:15-17; CCC 553).  Peter's office and the pastoral office of the other Apostles as Christ's lesser ministers form an apostolic college that belongs to the foundation of the Church.  These are offices founded by Christ that are continued in the primacy of the Pope and the universal Magisterium of the bishops (CCC 869, 880-81).

The responsibilities of Peter's high office have been passed down to Christ's Vicars who have succeeded him: 

The difference between the office of the vicars of the Davidic kings and Peter's office is that Peter's authority is both temporal and spiritual, and unlike the Davidic Vicar in Isaiah 22:22, Peter will be given the "keys" plural.  The two keys refer to the power Peter has to "bind and loose" sins, controlling the keys that give access to the kingdom of heaven: the key that releases man from the gates of death in Sheol/Hades and the key that provides entry into the gates of heaven.

Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
The authority to "bind and loose" will be repeated to Peter and the college of Apostles (Mt 18:18) and is reaffirmed after Jesus' Resurrection when Jesus breaths the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and tells them: "Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" (Jn 20:21-23). 

In CCC 553 and 1441-45, the Catechism of the Church defines the authority Jesus gave Peter and the Apostles and their successors in using the metaphors of binding and loosing.  The power to bind and loose is exercised by Christ's Vicar and the Magisterium:

St. Peter's acknowledgement of Jesus' divine Sonship became the confession of apostolic faith that was revealed by God, first spoken by Peter, repeated by the Apostles and disciples, and repeated by the faithful across the world in every Christian generation, bringing to fulfillment God's promise to Abraham to bless all nations (Gen 22:18; Gen 3:26-29; 6:16).  It is on the rock of this faith confessed by Peter that Christ built His Church as mankind's vehicle of salvation (CCC 424).  Each of us must have the courage to answer Jesus' question: "Who do YOU say that I am" by making Peter's profession of faith our own.  It must not be a confession of faith that we make only with our voices but also with our lives.  Just as St. Paul described his discipleship as a sacrificial offering (Second Reading), our commitment to Jesus Christ must be a libation of love for the sake of our Savior and His Kingdom the Church (2 Tim 2:4; Rom 12:1).

Footnotes:

1. Eusebius, Church History, 2.25.8 quoting the passage about the martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul by Bishop Dionysius of Corinth in his letter to Pope Soter, Bishop of Rome (c. 166/174).

2. Bishop Eusebius' 4th century Church history records that St. Peter came to Rome during the reign of the Emperor Claudius who ruled from 41-54 AD (Church History, 2.14.6).  St. Jerome records that St. Peter served as Bishop of Rome for 25 years (De Viris Illustribus, 100.1).

3. New Jerusalem Bible Study Edition, page 1637, footnote "f".

Catechism References:

Acts 12:5 (CCC 2636); 12:6-11 (CCC 334-336)

Psalm 34:3 (CCC 716); 34:8 (CCC 336)

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 (CCC 2015); 4:1 (CCC 679)

Matthew 16:16 (CCC 424, 442); 16:17 (CCC 153, 442); 16:18-19 (CCC 881; 16:18 (CCC 424, 442, 552, 586, 869); 16:19 (CCC 553, 1444)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2014