About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover.
While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him. The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”
Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
The missionary tradition of the Church began with the faith-filled witness to Jesus by his apostles and early followers. Among these the Church gives primacy of place to St. Peter and St. Paul. Today’s first two readings from Acts and 1 Timothy give us insight into the character and witness of these faith-filled apostles. Both preached Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord no matter the risk, and both were martyred in Rome.
Following in their footsteps may seem to be a formidable and even foolhardy challenge. Jesus’ question to Peter offers an approach. Jesus asks Peter –and each of us—“Who do you say that I am?” Our concrete day-by-day answer over the span of our lives to that simple question will mark our own journey of faith. Our heartfelt response to throw in our lot with this Jesus of Nazareth – especially, as Pope Francis reminds us, in our outreach to the poor — will give us “the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.”
How today do I offer a personal response to Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?”
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Lord in your great plan, every detail is important, even the hidden witness of those who live their faith with simplicity in everyday family relationships, work relationships, friendships. Give us the grace to remember that we cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of our life. And Lord, strengthen our desire to empty ourselves of our many small or great idols in which we take refuge, or which form the base of our security.