"The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them."
Our celebration of Saints Peter and Paul reveals both weakness and strength. Saint Peter is delivered from prison. Saint Paul is rescued from the lion's mouth. These Apostles of the Lord Jesus model for us a life that is poor in the eyes of the world yet powerful to the eyes of faith. These men of faith suffered the cost of discipleship and enjoyed the bounty of those who fear the Lord. If we fear the Lord, His angel encamps around us and we are delivered daily from the burdens of carrying the cross. Notice we are not delivered daily from carrying the cross, but we are delivered from the burdens of carrying the crosss. Every day we taste and see that the Lord is good and we are blessed because we take refuge in Him.
When King Herod took delight in the approval of his persecution of the members of the Church, he continued to wreak havoc and killed Saint James and arrested Saint Peter. Herod's delight was short lived. He could not keep Saint Peter in chains. Delivery from prison meant another opportunity for this Apostle to preach Christ, the Son of the Living God. Eventually his witness won for Saint Peter the reward of crucifixion upon an inverted cross to give all the glory to the Crucified and Risen Christ. The angel who encamped around Saint Peter did not prevent his self-sacrifice; rather he gave him the strength to share in the full outpouring of the Lord Jesus. Saint Paul also shared in this strength. He too was delivered from stoning and calamities. Yet, these miracles of rescue did not eliminate the ultimate self-gift of Saint Paul. He, too, shared in the total sacrifice of the Lord Jesus and was poured out in martyrdom by the sword. Both Apostles were delivered from persecution and death, yet the Lord delighted to receive each one as a living sacrifice of praise offered upon the altar of the cross. We, too, share in this mystery. The angel of the Lord encamps around us, and this angel provides both deliverance from danger and the strength we need to deliver ourselves over to the cross. Ultimately, we cannot avoid the cost of discipleship. Eventually, we must embrace the mystery of the cross. Finally, we give ourselves over to the full implications of baptism.
The power of the keys given to Saint Peter, after his profession of faith, is a power uniquely given to him and shared with all those who follow him in that office of loving service. The keys and the power to loose and bind are given to Saint Peter so that all of us can be admitted into the Kingdom of heaven. This apostolic authority provides all who follow Christ with the assurance of faith. We readily embrace this gift of Christ to his church, and we believe in the church even as we believe within the church. Our faith makes us one with Saint Peter and Saint Paul and with all who follow Christ, the Son of the Living God. Indeed we share in the same victory of faith, and we look to the Lord, and we are radiant with joy. This solemnity summons all who fear the Lord to take up the cross. Finally, it is the cross of Christ that is the key of power. Only through the cross do we gain access into the Kingdom of justice and peace. Only through the cost of discipleship do we bear authentic witness to the plan of God to gather all the nations into the Kingdom of Heaven. Only through laying down our lives in loving service do we have the power to loose and bind. Only this power will unlock the mystery of a burden that is easy and light. Suffering and death, through Him with Him and in Him, become more than a burden; they become the key that opens the gates of heaven.