29 June 2007

St Peter and St Paul, Apostles

What happen's in today's world makes us consider the problems facing the Church: growing materialism, great "fallings away", the apparent vicotry of errors, persecution or expulsion, being brought into the position of minority. But all this does not affect the strength of the Church.

The Church grows through the faith and the grace and the sacrament given to her by Christ. He leads her to strength through the person of his Vicar on earth, the Bishop of Rome. St Paul joins St Peter in today's celebration because he was a brave co-worker and witness to St Peter's papal authority.

The Liturgy helps us to understand the Papacy. St Peter confesses that Christ is really God. Christ then gives him the name of Peter, which means rock, and builds his Church upon him. *

By making St Peter the rock of his Church, Christ gives him full responsibility and authority over the community of the new creation. Neither he nor his power can be destroyed by evil any more than the new creation itself.

Since we are baptized and incorporated in Christ and his new Creation, we too have been built upon this "Rock". We share in the Life of the Church, and we carry responsibility for it. Our task is to witness before all men that the Church is really a firm establishment. Only by sin do we harm her: by sin we witness to evil, and attack the holy mystery which she is.

* The firmness of God's coveneant with his people make them consider him as a rock.

Jerusalem was built upon a firm rock. Mount Sion was seen as the rock of living water, following the people in their travel to Jerusalem (Exodus 17:1-6, Psalm 78:15-20). Christ is the rock because he gives living water, and because he is the cornerstone, upon which the new Sion stands firm (John 7:37-39, 1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

The Messia would be the cornerstone in the new construction, which Isaia foretells when he sees the people rebuilding the ruined walls of the city (Ephesians 2:19-22, Isaia 28:16-17). But the cornerstone would first be rejected, the Messia must suffer (Psalm 118:22, Matthew 21:40-42, Acts 4:11, 1 Peter 2:1-8). In the begining this aspect seems not to have been clearly understood by St Peter (Matthew 16:21-23).

On this same rock the pagan nations would be broken. It would be a rock of judgement and condemnation for the enemies of the Kingdom (Isaia 8:11-15, Romans 9:30-33, 1 Peter 2:7-8,Luke 2:34, Daniel 2:31-45).

The Church, the fulfilment of God's plan, is the building which stands upon Christ and upon St peter; St Paul and the other Apostles are its pillars; and we Christians are its living stones. (1 Corinithians 14, 2 Corinthians 10:8, 13:10, Colossians 2:6-7, John 14:15-17, Romans 15:2)

- 1962 St Andrew's Bible Missal

St Peter, son of Jona and brother of Andrew, was a fisherman of Bethsaida. A disciple of John the Baptist, he became a follower of Jesus at the beginining of His ministry. Because of his generosity and strong faith he was selected for many favours from Our Lord. He was chosen as a witness of the raising of Jairus' daughter from the dead, of the Transfiguration, and of the agony in the garden. The Saviour changed his name to Peter and appointed him head of the Church. After his liberation from prison in Jerusalem he went to Antioch and established his see there. Later he went to Rome and made it the center of the Church. He wrote two Epistles. He was matryred under Nero by being crucified head downwards (AD 67), and was buried at the foot of Vatican hill.

Today's Mass describes St Peter as the rock and foundation of the Church. "Thou art rock and on this rock I will build my Church." He was first among the Apostles to profess openly and courageously the Divinity of Christ. In reward Our Lord made him head over all the Church, constituted him prince over all the earth, protected him, and liberated him from the hands of his enemies.

"This day Simon Peter ascended the gibbet of the cross, alleluia. This day the key-bearer of heaven went on his way to Christ with joy. This day the Apostle Paul, the light of the world, bowing his head for the name of Christ was crowned with martyrdon, alleluia."

- 1961 Cathedral Daily Missal

Veneration of the two great Apostles, Peter and Paul, has its roots in the very foundations of the Church. They are the solid rock on which the Church is built. They are the origin of her faith and will for ever remain her protectors and her guides. To them Rome owes her true greatness, for it was under God's providential guidance that they were led to make of the capital of the Empire, sanctified by their martyrdom, the centre of the Christian world, whence, shoudl radiate the preaching of the Gospel.

St Peter suffered martyrdon under Nero, in AD 66 or 67. He was buried on the hill of the Vatican, where recent excavations have revealed his tomb on the very site of the basilica of St Peter. St Paul was beheaded in the via Ostia on the spot where now stands the basilica bearing his name. Down the centuries, Christian people in their thousands have gone to pilgrimage to the tombs of these Apostles. In the second and third centuries, the Roman Church already stood pre-eminent by reason of her apostolicity, the infallible truth of her teaching and her two great figures, Saints Peter and Paul.

The Mass expresses the confidence of the Church in the intercession of those "from who she first received the faith". Particular emphasis is laid on the perogative of Peter, God's special protection of him; and Christians realize when they sing Tu es Petrus that Peter's prerogatives have been handed down to the Popes, Peter's sucessors in the See of Rome, just as they are sure of the special providence watching over the Vicar of Christ in his office as head of the Church.

- 1961 St Andrew Daily Missal

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