Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


Solemnity of St. Peter and Paul
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
June 29th, 2014
Year A

One of my favorite basilicas in all of Rome is San Pietro in Vincoli – St. Peter in Chains. It is located about half way between the Basilica of Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore) and the Coliseum near the Palatine Hill on which the city was founded. The basilica is one of the many station churches of Rome that serves as a Lenten pilgrimage throughout the city. There are few things that make this church famous. First, it is home to the famous statue of Moses sculpted by Michelangelo. Moses is depicted as being seated, holding the tablets with horns coming from his head. Also housed here is the tomb of Pope Julius II. He is known for his commissioning of the painting of the Sistine Chapel. It is believed that his family owned the land on which the basilica was built. Yet, these are not why this church is famous. Around the year 450 AD, the chains of St. Peter, that held him captive in Jerusalem, were brought to Rome. They were to be put on display along with the chains that held him captive in Rome. When the two sets of chains were brought together, they miraculously fused. Today, one can see the chains below the high altar in view for public veneration.

In the first reading of the Mass today, the Acts of the Apostles reports Peter’s imprisonment in Jerusalem – which is what brought the story of his chains to mind. St. Luke, the author of the Acts, makes this note about Peter’s miraculous jailbreak. He states that when Peter and the angel finally made it outside the prison walls, the angel left him and Peter came “to his senses.” Other translations of this phrase put this way: “Peter came to himself.” He was delivered. Saved. His miraculous freedom reminds us of the Exodus. The Hebrew, through Yahweh’s intervention, were freed from the grasp of Pharaoh. They didn’t know where they were going but they knew who to follow. The same could be said for Peter. He was not sure where the angel would take him, but he knew he had to follow him. And when he was finally free of his imprisonment, he became himself. He was where he was meant to be – free. The two miraculous events symbolize our freedom – our inner freedom from sin and death. When we follow the Lord, our Savior and Redeemer, He frees us from the chains of sin that bind up the soul. He sets our hearts and souls free from Satan’s grasp and thus we avoid spiritual and eternal death. And we become ourselves – our true selves.

At the same time, something could be said for the courage of St. Peter. He follows the angel, aware of the danger that lies outside the prison walls but he knows it is the right move. His heart tells him to go, to follow. St. Peter is an example of how we are to live as Catholics in today’s world. So many Catholics today are afraid to courageously follow the Lord, fearful of knowing where He will take them. Many people would rather stay imprisoned because, eventually, you can get used to the chains. They can become a comfort. One of the greatest tragedies in Catholicism today is that there are far too many complacent souls. Far too many who are comfortable; who are indifferent. Indifferentism is worse than hate because it is uncaring, apathetic.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us: “you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” In question His disciples in the Gospel, Jesus calls His Apostles to greatness, to give testimony to Him, to bear witness to Him in spite of the fear that fills their hearts and the dangers that lurk in the nearby shadows. Our day is no different. Jesus calls us to have the same courage. The courage to say: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Yet we can if we are siding with the enemy. We cannot do that if we are “giving in” to the cultural trends of modern times. We cannot be His witnesses if we are willing to surrender. Like Peter, we have to get up, be courageous, and follow the Lord’s lead. We forget that this is not an earthly battle, this is a battle of good and evil, of principalities and powers – it is a fight for the soul and the victory must be God’s. I know that sometimes we get nervous because we don’t want to offend. We might not know what to say. Our bearing witness to Christ, the Church and the Truth of the Gospel will surely bring ridicule. It will cause some fierce debates. This is precisely where we need to be bold and pray each day for greater courage. Everyday those graces of confirmation – those graces of courage, wisdom, knowledge – must be stirred by our constant prayer. In this way, with our eyes fixed on Jesus and our feet set firmly in His path, we can lose those chains and become better and bolder witnesses to Him. Remember, you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.


Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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