Acts 12: 1-11; 2Tim 4: 6-8, 17-18; Matthew 16: 13-19
Although Peter and Paul have their own feast days throughout the year, every year on June 29th we bring them together on this Solemnity, celebrating them in a different way. They are two iconic figures, larger than life in many ways, but show us something of what we hope to attain in this life, an inner freedom that is monumental and beyond words.
So often when we see them portrayed, we see Peter holding the keys as we hear in the gospel today on this feast and we see Paul with a large sword, defender of the faith as he is known; although he is very much a writer of the faith as we know it today. But they really are more than just these symbols that have been attributed to them, keys and a sword, temporal powers; they truly have this great inner power that inner freedom that often put them at odds with one another.
In many ways I do believe Peter is a good representation of the heart of the operation and Paul, although a mystic in his own right, truly is the brains. This did often put them at odds with one another, creating tension between them. Yet, we know in our own lives how those two are often at odds. It can be so often that our heads and hearts are disconnected and we live separated lives. We do know or experience that inner freedom that they did and knew. But they also reconcile, not themselves, but something greater within working, a deeper mystery at work that brings them together, mending and reconciling what is at odds. Quite honestly, it’s what made the two of them quite dangerous to the status quo of the leaders of the time, because they no longer feared death or controlled by fear, living in and through this inner freedom.
We see that in these readings for this feast. In the First Reading from Acts of the Apostles we encounter a community at prayer for Peter, who finds himself locked in prison. Both Peter and Paul, again, no longer fearing death or confinement, take their time in prison very differently than I’d say most of us. Nothing on the exterior or the outer world can touch them and so they freely go where others will not, eventually leading them to death. On the Eve of this Feast it is the Gospel from John where Jesus lays out the kind of death that Peter will face, once he begins to put love first in his life. He becomes “broke free” from prison, by the Lord, just as his heart was broke free by an ongoing encounter with the Lord.
Paul to in the Letter we hear in the Second Reading speaks of himself being poured out like a libation. He’s not doing it, but it is being done to him. His departure is at hand, rescued from the lion’s mouth. Over and over again, these two point the way for us to let go and trust, let go and trust, and the more we do it as they did, the more that inner freedom grows within us and we too become dangerous to the status quo of life.
Even in his proclamation of faith Peter, in today’s Gospel from Matthew, speaks a truth that goes beyond even his own understanding or of his own power. It is of nothing temporal that this has been revealed to you but by my heavenly Father. At this point of the Gospel it’s safe to say that Peter doesn’t even know what he’s talking about; Jesus will go on to tell him, “get behind me Satan” in about the next verse! It comes from within and he will learn as time goes on truly what that proclamation meant and the inner freedom and awareness that it will bring to him.
As we celebrate these two iconic figures of our faith, yes, we recognize them as holding the keys and the defender of the faith, but they are much more than that. Together they represent what we seek and desire, inner freedom and a reconciliation of head and heart. It doesn’t come easy as they could attest, but the more they let go of what has bound them interiorly, the more free they come, the more space that is created for reconciliation and oneness, the more they become that dangerous duo of our faith, so often threatening all that we try to hold onto, all that holds us back, and all that keeps us from growing deeper in love with Mystery and being the person we’ve been created to be. We pray today for their intercession that we may become one of mind and heart and a force to be reckoned with in a world that is so in need of their and our witness.