Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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Saints Peter and Paul
June 29, 2008 Year: A
Acts 12:1-11; 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 17-18; Mt. 16:13-19
Great Faith Warriors 

First Reading...
"In those days, 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 some of the people, 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 people were expecting." [Acts 12:1-11]

Second Reading...
"As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen." [2 Tim. 4:6-8, 17-18]

Gospel Reading...
"When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." [Mt. 16:13-19]

Reflection only on the Gospel
These two saints of quite different in nature were closely associated with Jesus. One was a friend of Jesus and another became a friend after long years of persecution of Christians.

Peter was an interesting fellow. He would be the first to tell you, "I love the Lord! Nothing I wouldn’t do for Him! Do I need to fight for Him? I'll do it! Do I need to go to jail for Him? I'll do it! Do I need to die for Him? I'll do it!!" When Jesus came walking on the water during the storm, who was it that walked out to join Him?  He was Peter! When the soldiers came for Christ at Gethsemane, who was it that pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus? Again Peter! Who was it that denied he knew the Lord Jesus three times the night they arrested Him? Peter. But who was it that Jesus told to feed His lambs? Good Peter!

Matthew 16:13-19When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I am?" And they said, "Some say that you are John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." He said to them, "what do you say I am?" And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered and said unto him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say also to thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

"Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona." Happy, to be congratulated. It's the same word Jesus uses in the Beatitudes. "You are to be congratulated, Simon Barjona, because you did not come up with this on your own, but my Father in heaven showed you this!" What does Jesus say to him in verse 23? "Get behind Me Satan!" Peter had it…almost.

Bible was not written in English. The New Testament was written in Greek. And when we study a passage that some people may disagree on, the best thing to do is go back and read what the writers originally said in Greek.

First, let's look at the name "Simon" in verse 17. That's a name that means, "hearer." It also means "a wavering reed," or simply "a waverer." But I found this definition and it was like a light bulb went off and we'll see why in a moment. The name "Simon" can also mean, "sand-like." Why is this important? Look at verse 18. There are 4 different Greek words - and one Aramaic - in the Bible that gets translated as stone. Jesus uses two of them in this verse when He talks about rocks and stones.

He looks at the wavering sand and says, "Thou art Peter." The Greek word is "Petros." It means "a stone." It can even mean "a large stone." The best definition I found is, "a detached but large fragment of rock." Now, doesn’t the definition of "Simon" as "sand-like" mean a little bit more? "Blessed art thou, sand…thou art a stone." I don’t have the exact numbers, but Jesus refers to Simon Peter in different ways at different times. Sometimes He calls him "Simon." Sometimes He calls him "Peter." Sometimes He calls him "Simon Peter." In John 1 He calls him "Cephas." We'll see why this is important later.

"Thou art Peter." Then Jesus says, "…and upon this Rock…" He uses a different word—petra. Here's the difference. The word "petros" means "a stone." The word "petra" means "a large, projecting rock," or "a large boulder," or even "rocky ground, a bluff, bedrock." Let me give you an example of the difference. The word "petra" is used 13 times in the New Testament. Listen to how it is used in several verses:

Matthew 7:24; Luke 6:48—both of these record the words of Jesus saying, "Therefore whosoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will compare him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock (petra): And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock (petra)." You cannot build a house on a stone. You have to build it on solid rock. Bedrock.

Matthew 27:59-60; Mark 15:46—Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in linen, and laid him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock (petra), and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulcher. Now you cannot build a tomb out of a stone, even a large stone. This "petra" was the rock that made up the hill where He was buried.

Romans 9:33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock (petra) of offense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

1st Corinthians 10:4—…they drank of that spiritual Rock (petra) that followed them: and that Rock (petra) was Christ.

1st Peter 2:8—And a stone of stumbling, and a rock (petra) of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient…
Every time the word the word "petra" is used, it is used of rock that is part of the earth. The rock which makes up the hills and mountains. The rock which is underneath the grass and dirt, upon which everything sits.

Now, let's look at the word "Petros." This word is used 162 times in the New Testament. Guess how many times it is translated "stone"? Once. The other 161 times, it is used as a name for Peter. It is never used to describe something on which a building, or a house, or—especially—a church could be built on. Because that's not what it means. It means "A detached but would build His church upon the "petra." The solid Rock in which all things consist, by which all things are held together. Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Savior, our Petra.

OK, now for the keys. These "keys of the kingdom of heaven"—does not mean that Peter is the head of the church.

The verb "bind" is in the perfect tense. It happened in the past, and its effects continue. This is one of those places where the King James Version doesn’t quite say it the best way. Matthew 16:19—"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." In other words Jesus is saying, "Whatever you allow or prohibit on earth will have already been allowed or prohibited in Heaven." He was not giving them the authority to bind and loosen. He was giving them the ability to determine whether something should be bound or loosened.

Peter was a MAN OF FAITH. Verses 15-16 — He said unto them, "But who say that I am?" And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." We don’t really hear a whole lot about Peter's brother Andrew. But it was Andrew that led Peter to Christ. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. He had been following John for quite some time, and the day when Jesus came to that John to be baptized, and the skies opened and the Holy Spirit came down and the voice called out, "This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," Andrew was probably there. It's not clearly spelled out, but from reading the passage — John 1:35-41 — you could reasonably assume that he was there. And the next day, Jesus comes to them again, and tells Andrew "Follow Me." Then, in John 1:40-42, it says, One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas."

Cephas is Aramaic for "a stone." But something else I want you to notice is that Jesus says "You are Simon son of Jonah." Remember that. I mentioned earlier the significance of names. Now, about that name "Cephas." Stone. What had Peter done up to this point to earn this type of attention from Christ? Nothing. He was a fisherman. He was minding his nets. Minding his own business.

But not Simon son of Jonah. He kept it in his mind, meditated on it, kept holding on to that until Christ came back. Then, the day after that, in Matthew 4:18-20 Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he said unto them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. Peter had faith enough to know that when Jesus says, "Let's go," we can’t delay. There's no, "Let me go bury my father first." Peter left his nets, left the only thing he ever knew. He left the comfort and security of a good living being a fisherman to follow this man who didn’t even have a roof over His head. Jesus did not live in a big mansion. Yet Peter left it all, and followed Him. He was a MAN OF FAITH.

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A New book from Fr. Rudy :
Short review of the book: This book is an out come of a serious exegetical study on the important words and texts from the writings of St John of the Cross. The study deals with a short life and writings of the mystic and then does a complete study on GOD, MAN and WAYS to EXPERIENCE GOD. The book is available at: St. Joseph Church, Near Holy Cross Convent School, Mira Road East, Thane Dt. Maharashtra State - 401 107, India. Books can be ordered through email: or

The cost of the book is Rs. 125/- pp.xviii + 234, The Title of the Book is: THE DYNAMISM OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH - An Exegetical Study on St. John of the Cross, author: Dr. Rudolf V. D' Souza, OCD, MA. PhD.

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