First Reading: Acts 12:1-11
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword; and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your mantle around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him. And Peter came to himself, and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:2-9
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!
Second Reading: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the message fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Gospel: Matthew 16:13-19
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesare’a Philip’pi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli’jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Today is an awesome feast in the life of the Church—the feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Both apostles were ordinary, faithful men who were called to an extraordinary mission in expanding and leading the early Church.
We just read about the various radical crosses they carried with Our Lord: exile, persecution, imprisonment, calumny, and eventually death for the sake of the Gospel. Yet in and through all their sufferings, they lit an unquenchable fire in the hearts of the new faithful that would spread throughout the world and consume more souls for the Lord up to the present day.
I’ve read the First Reading countless times before, but what struck me today was a small yet significant detail Saint Luke includes when describing Saint Peter’s imprisonment. Luke recounts that Peter, while in prison, was being guarded by two men, and was bound by two chains. Peter wasn’t just imprisoned, he was outnumbered. The odds were against him.
Yet in His mercy and love, the Lord sent an angel to break the chains of Peter and lead him out of the prison where he had been overwhelmed by persecution.
Peter was outnumbered, but God was with him.
Peter was overwhelmed with suffering, but God is victorious over death.
Peter was chained, but God gives liberty to the captives.
Sister, do you feel outnumbered today? Do your worries, your concerns, your to-do lists, your responsibilities, and your fears imprison you? Are you so overwhelmed with whatever is staring you in the face that you want to run away because you’re just one person?
Who are the two guards keeping you locked away? What are the two chains that keep you from moving forward to freedom?
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In the Heart of the Lord, you are not outnumbered. Jesus is for you, He is with you, and He desires to rescue you, too. He wants to break the chains that bind both your hands, He wants to lead you out of the dark prisons of your heart into the light and fresh air. He wants to fill you with good things and make your face radiant.
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So when you feel outnumbered, as we all do from time to time, remember that the Lord doesn’t leave His little ones imprisoned. We, the Church, are making earnest prayer for you today.
Olivia Spears is a middle school religion teacher turned SAHM who is married to her high school best friend. You can find out more about her here.