May almighty God bless you, for he has made you steadfast in Saint Peter’s saving confession and through it has set you on the solid rock of the Church’s faith. R. Amen.
And having instructed you by the tireless preaching of Saint Paul, may God teach you constantly by his example to win brothers and sisters for Christ. R. Amen.
So that by the keys of St Peter and the words of St Paul, and by the support of their intercession, God may bring us happily to that homeland that Peter attained on a cross and Paul by the blade of a sword. R. Amen.
And may the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, come down on you and remain with you for ever. R. Amen.
Optional final blessing for Feast of Ss Peter and Paul
The feast we celebrate reminds of our mission; the saints we honour continue to play their role, and God of course plays his part!
Now we have work to do!
What might you do?
Who might help?
Stained glass. Cloister of Chester Cathedral. Photograph (c) 2016, Allen Morris.
King Herod started persecuting certain members of the Church. He beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, and he put Peter in prison, assigning four squads of four soldiers each to guard him in turns. Herod meant to try Peter in public after the end of Passover week. All the time Peter was under guard the Church prayed to God for him unremittingly.
On the night before Herod was to try him, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with double chains, while guards kept watch at the main entrance to the prison. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord stood there, and the cell was filled with light. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him. ‘Get up!’ he said ‘Hurry!’ – and the chains fell from his hands. The angel then said, ‘Put on your belt and sandals.’ After he had done this, the angel next said, ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.’
Peter followed him, but had no idea that what the angel did was all happening in reality; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed through two guard posts one after the other, and reached the iron gate leading to the city. This opened of its own accord; they went through it and had walked the whole length of one street when suddenly the angel left him.
It was only then that Peter came to himself. ‘Now I know it is all true’ he said. ‘The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.’
First reading for feast of St Peter and Paul Acts 12:1-11
Even in this life the Lord is our protector, but most importantly is the one who draws us towards eternal life with him.
In this life we are invited in one way or another to share in the Cross of the Lord, even in his martyrdom. But he promises to raise us up and to ever share life with us.
Engraved stone. Vatican Museum. Photograph (c) 2016, Allen Morris.
My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.
The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
2nd Reading for Feast of Ss Peter and Paul 2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18
Paul has poured away his life in offering; he has fought the good fight, but the greatest gift is that which is given by the Lord.
It is the Lord’s power and faithfulness that makes all things possible.
Paul has learnt to trust to that. And he seeks to share the knowledge he has gained and that gives him life.
Enamel. Musee Dobree, Nantes. Photograph (c) 2016, Allen Morris
I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise always on my lips; in the Lord my soul shall make its boast. The humble shall hear and be glad.
Glorify the Lord with me. Together let us praise his name. I sought the Lord and he answered me; from all my terrors he set me free.
Look towards him and be radiant; let your faces not be abashed. This poor man called, the Lord heard him and rescued him from all his distress.
The angel of the Lord is encamped around those who revere him, to rescue them. Taste and see that the Lord is good. He is happy who seeks refuge in him.
Psalm for Feast of SS Peter and Paul Psalm 33(34):2-9
The Christian is never alone. We are part of the universal Church, joined with saints and sinners down through the centuries, united with the saints and angels of heaven, and those others who are – please God – preparing and being prepared for heaven.
The Christian is never alone. United with sisters and brothers of all sorts, s/he is also always in the presence of God. God never leaves us to our own devices, but always invites us to renew our trust in him. To him we offer praise and thanks; to him we turn also with all our needs.
Stained glass. Church of St John the Baptist, Cardiff. Photograph (c) 2017, Allen Morris.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’
Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’
Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’
Gospel for Solemnity of St Peter and Paul Matthew 16:13-19
Jesus asks questions about who he is, but an equal issue in the narrative is who Peter is.
Faith appears in many ways to be about our understanding and relationship with God, but it also helps us to a deeper understanding of who we are and what we are called to be.
Stained glass. Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, Paris. Photograph(c) 2018, Allen Morris.
Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing.
It was late afternoon when the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here.’ He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we are to go ourselves and buy food for all these people.’ For there were about five thousand men. But he said to his disciples, ‘Get them to sit down in parties of about fifty.’ They did so and made them all sit down.
Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted, and when the scraps remaining were collected they filled twelve baskets.
Gospel for Corpus Christi Luke 9:11-17
What a profound difference there is between Jesus who makes the crowds welcome and the disciples who eventually just want them sent away.
The Lord performs an extraordinary miracle in response to the people’s need – but maybe most extraordinary is that he cares to respond, that nothing interrupts his care for them.
That same care is there for us, in all our need.
Stained glass. Couvent des Jacobins, Toulouse. Photograph (c) 2018, Allen Morris.