Hi Everyone. Don Fabio's homily hasn't been published this week. So we have put the homily from 3 years ago. On that occasion, the solemnity of Peter and Paul (June 29) fell on the Sunday.
SOLEMNITY OF PETER AND PAUL
Gospel: Matthew 16:13-19
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I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven
‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God’.
Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ
Kieran’s summary . . . Don Fabio tells us that the theme of liberation is very important in this week’s readings. In the first reading, Peter is freed from his chains by an angel. This is an echo of an interior liberation that is much more significant. We are inclined to think that Christianity is a moral or ethical system. To be a good Christian, or so we think, all we need to do is behave well and go to confession whenever we fall. But Christianity is so much more than this! Jesus wants to liberate us from the interior chains that bind us! All of us are oppressed by darkness and interior states of imprisonment. So were Peter and Paul. Peter was proud and believed that he could follow Jesus by his own strength. Saul considered himself to be righteous, but he was actually a persecutor of the righteous. Jesus freed both of them from their interior delusions and gave them the capacity to be pillars of the Church. Jesus, the Son of the living God, wishes to free you and me from our inner states of imprisonment as well! Once he has freed us, then we will be capable of significant moral acts. Free us, Lord Jesus, so that we will be capable of following you authentically like Peter and Paul!
Jesus tells Peter that the Church will be a liberating force in the world. The theme of being set free is very important this Sunday.
In the Gospel reading, Peter demonstrates that he knows who the Lord is. In Hebrew the verb “to know” signifies a very deep and intimate knowledge of the other person. In response, Jesus gives Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven and says that the gates of the underworld will not hold out against the church built upon Peter. Some translations of this passage makes it sound as if the powers of the underworld will attack the church but will be unsuccessful. The original version, however, states that the Church will confront the powers of the underworld and will prevail over them. The Church will drag humanity away from these powers of darkness, away from the slavery associated with them. The Church will be a force of liberation that will rescue people from the dark prisons in which they are enclosed. That is why the notion of keys is so important. The Church will shatter the locks on these doors behind which we are barricaded, and open up the doors to a very different kind of kingdom.
Christianity is not a moral or ethical system. It is something that liberates a person from slavery and darkness
The first reading sheds light on this theme of opening and closing doors. The passage from Acts recounts how Herod imprisons Peter and wishes to publicly torture him. An angel appears and frees Peter from his chains. The beginning of the reading mentions something significant that we should not overlook: we are told that Peter was imprisoned during Passover week. Passover is the celebration of the liberation from the imprisonment in Egypt. It commemorates the moment when the way to freedom is opened, when darkness passes and the light finally appears. The story of Peter replicates the same drama. The chains of the underworld are broken and the way to the kingdom of heaven is opened. The dynamism of these texts are highly significant. We are constantly tempted to reduce Christianity to a moral or ethical system. We think that the principal thing is to behave in an upright way and remain in the grace of God. If we fall, then we can go to confession and be restored to a state of grace. No! Christianity should not be diminished to these static and moralistic terms! Our moral behavior is merely the consequence of something deeper. When a human being has been liberated in the deepest sense of the word, when he has been drawn out of his interior state of darkness, fear and oppression, then he is in a position to complete great moral acts! We are inclined to think that if a person makes a mistake, then all we need to do to sort him out is tell him where he went wrong. But this approach only works for small errors. For the deep problems that touch our very essence, moral correction is of little use. It does not give the person the strength he needs to emerge from his state of darkness.
The Lord freed Peter and Paul in the deepest sense of the word, and he wants to liberate you and me also!
Peter and Paul both understood what was needed for real liberation. Both of these men were freed from their personal deceptions by the power of the Lord. Peter believed that he had the ability to follow the Lord by his own strength and force of will. He tried and failed. Saul believed that he was a righteous man, but then he discovered that he was not righteous but a persecutor of the righteous. Both men were freed from the deceit that lay in their very hearts. One was made head of the Church and the other the great Apostle to the Gentiles. Both were given the capacity to change radically the lives of others and the entire religious spirituality of the Mediterranean basin in a short span of time. They achieved this because God gave them a key that is also indispensable for each one of us. Our God is a God of liberation! He can break the chains that hold all of us! Some of the chains that hold us are small, but some are chains of real slavery. We have vices and situations of oppression in our lives that can be opened by the Lord. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, and you can break my chains! When Peter experienced being released from the chains of Herod, he was experiencing the echo of an interior liberation that derives from the resurrection of Christ. As Christians, none of us is faced with a cul-de-sac. There is always a way to freedom available to us. No matter how oppressive the chains that bind us, the experience of Easter is always at hand. Let us turn to the one who freed Saul from his delusions, the one who liberated Peter from his pride, making these men great and humble saints.