Acts 12:1-11: Now I know the Lord really did save me from Herod.
Ps 33(34):2-9: From all my terrors the Lord set me free.
2 Tim 4:6-8, 17-18: All there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me.
Matthew 16:13-19: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.
In Saint Peter’s basilica in Rome, on today’s great feast, there is an ancient custom of hanging fishing nets behind the statue of Saint Peter. The statue itself on today’s feast is richly decorated with cope and the triple tiara. The fishing nets hanging behind such splendor might seem incongruous to anyone who did not know that Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, the first Pope, started life as a humble fisherman.
To this weak and impulsive man, so unpromising in so many ways, Christ entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of heaven. He also told Peter that in future he would be catching men instead of fish, meaning of course that in future, Peter the fisherman would be drawing souls in the net of faith and charity, drawing souls into that Kingdom which the Lord came to earth to establish, that Kingdom which we enter by being drawn into the Communion and fellowship of the Catholic Church.
The confidence which Christ placed in Peter as the foundation stone of the Church is remarkable when we remember that Peter three times denied his Master. The Son of God well knew into what frail hands He was placing the spiritual destiny of His people. When Jesus called Peter the rock on which he would build his Church, He knew that this rock would very rapidly crumble to dust, unless He Himself, the Rock of Ages, did not underpin it at all time, in every age of the Church until the world ends.
The other foundation stone of the Church whom we celebrate today is Paul, on the human level so totally different from Peter in every way. Well educated, pious and zealous to the point of bigotry, Paul was an equally surprising choice. The risen Lord appeared to this young rabbi, and converted Him from being Saul, one of the most fanatical enemies, into Paul the greatest theologian and the greatest missionary the Church has ever known.
This should be an encouragement for us. Christ can and does turn the most unlikely and mediocre material, sinners and bigots, into instruments which He then generously uses for His own purposes and the salvation of all mankind. Peter and Paul have one important thing in common. They are both martyrs. Both laid down their lives for Christ. Both bore witness to the truth of the living God by making the supreme sacrifice.Their love for the Lord led to their death, just as his love for mankind led inevitably to His death on Calvary.
The beginnings of the Church are drenched in the blood of the martyrs, of which Peter and Paul are surely the most glorious. It seems to be true that in the Church’s long history, grace flows ever more abundantly in the face of persecution. In Paul’s life, we see his own persecution of those who followed Christ led ironically, to a great outpouring of grace, of which his own conversion and apostolate were the first fruits.
On today’s feast of the Fathers of the Holy Roman Church, we should pray for the Holy Father and all the shepherds of Christ’s embattled flock. What courage and single-mindedness it must require to serve the Lord faithfully as a bishop in the Church He founded. It is difficult enough being a priest! Imagine the pressures of being a bishop, a successor of the apostles themselves. Our bishop deserve our prayerful support at all times.
In the canon of every Mass, we pray explicitly for our Pope and our bishop. Let us resolve today never ever to weaken the communion of faith and charity which binds us to them, and through them, to Peter, Paul, and the other foundation stones of the Church. May Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles and Saint Paul, Apostle of the Gentiles, help us all to live and die in the knowledge and love of God. Together, may Peter and Paul guard and protect the Holy Roman Catholic Church, by their prayers and through their merits. May they inspire us all to follow Christ, on His painful yet glorious path to eternal life. Amen.
Stay safe an stay blessed.
Fr. Joseph OSJ.