Daily Reflection
June 29th, 1999
John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J.
The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Acts 12:1-11
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
Matthew 16:13-19
For me, there are several powerful and endearing images of Peter the Apostle in the Scriptures. Two of them occur in today's readings. The first, found in Acts 12:1-11, shows a scared but hopeful Peter walking out of Herod's prison cell not so much under his own power but because of the miraculous deliverance of the risen Jesus. The second image of Peter offered in Matthew 16:13-19, is the profession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, "the Son of the living God." From that point, Peter is to be the "rock" for the Church.

These images of Peter help me fill out an understanding of the Petrine ministry because he, like the Church, is at his best when he speaks the simple truth as it is given to him and relies on the power of God. Peter learned to trust Jesus, and therefore God, the hardest possible way: through trial and error, the humiliation of his betrayal of the One he loved. Peter learned to trust in God because he found compassion for his own missteps. The result is a kind of leadership forged out of compassion because of Peter's own need for compassion.

Likewise in 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18, Paul testifies, in what is probably his "last will and testament," that the power for deliverance belongs to God. Here is the great Christian apologist reduced to a hurried yet eloquent profession of faith shortly before his death, probably in A.D. 67.

Here is another image of discipleship that builds up the believer's hope. The great preacher of Christ crucified, the apostle to the Gentiles, is about to die. Yet, he proclaims that, though deserted by every human aid, "the Lord stood by me and gave me power so that through me the whole message [of Christ's love] might be proclaimed for all to hear." Though rescued from execution on several occasions, he knows the end is now near; he longs only for the embrace of God, the safety of heaven reached through death in imitation of Jesus.

Peter: A leader blessed with little eloquence but powerful compassion.
Paul: An eloquent preacher of salvation found through the crucified Christ.

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