The Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul
Readings: Acts 12:1-11; 2 Tim 4:6-8, 17-18; Mt. 16:13-19
St. Irenaeus, a 2nd century Church Father, had this to say about the church of Rome: “the very great, the very ancient and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul.” He added: “with this church, by reason of its more excellent origin every church must agree…the tradition which comes from the apostles has been preserved” (Against the Heresies 3.3.2.)
On this coming Feast Day of Sts. Peter and Paul, Irenaeus’ eloquent and much-quoted statement and similar statements made by other early Church Fathers that testified to the pre-eminence or even primacy of the church of Rome among other Christian and apostolic church communities find their resonance in the Gospel reading where Peter, the first leader of the Church after Christ, was made the “rock” upon which the Church of Christ would be built. “Rock” (or other words carrying the same conceptual meaning) is a very important scriptural word used in many places in the Old Testament to signify the Messiah. For example: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22). Christ, the Messiah, is the rock; in renaming Simon as “Peter” – “rock” – he made Peter his representative; he appointed Peter as the foundational leader of his Church.
In fact, the resonance turned into thundering when Jesus - the Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev 17:14) whose Kingdom of Heaven the kingdom of David prefigured and anticipated - gave Peter the “keys” that carried the complete and undeterred authority of binding and loosing. In a similar manner, the keys of the Davidic dynasty were given to Eliakim to allow him to govern Israel with absolute authority (Isaiah 22:20-22).
Today after 2000 years of Church history, sitting on the Chair of St. Peter is his 266th successor, Pope Francis. On this coming Feast Day of Sts. Peter and Paul, we Roman Catholics have every reason to rejoice and thank God in unison with the psalmist who sings in jubilation:
How numerous, O Lord, my God, you have made your wondrous deeds!
And in your plans for us there is none to equal you.
Should I wish to declare or tell them, too many are they to recount
Top among God’s wondrous deeds that stand to be counted by us Roman Catholics is the special grace of being members of the Roman Catholic Church - “the very ancient and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul.”