Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul, Apostles
Dreaming unto Reality
Readings: Acts 12:1-11; Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18; Matthew 16:13-19
Some of us may have had the experience of suddenly awaking from a dream and then, if just for a moment, not being sure whether we are awake or still dreaming. Peter seems to have a somewhat similar experience in the first reading today. He’s sleeping under heavy guard in the equivalent of a maximum-security prison. There is a soldier to the left and one to the right of him. Suddenly he finds himself being led to safety by an angel. And we are told that he thought he was seeing a vision. Even so, he follows the angel’s instructions and sees that the experience is real. God has rescued him from certain death at the hands of Herod.
And, if there is one central message highlighted in our readings today, this is it: that our God is a God who rescues God’s people. Paul says as much in the second reading: the lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. And we ourselves proclaimed it in the response to the psalm: from all my terrors the Lord set me free.
Yet, even as we hear and proclaim these words, might we not still find ourselves wondering if what they refer to is real or only a dream? After all, we know that both Peter and Paul died martyrs’ deaths. One was crucified and the other beheaded. And in our own experience, we probably continue to have to bear with trials and tribulations of one sort or another. Indeed, we may even have to bear these precisely because we believe in the One who rescues those who revere him. Might we not be forgiven then, for wondering if what our readings proclaim to us today is really real or only a dream? Might we not be excused if we hesitate to imitate Peter in following the instructions of the angel of God, whatever these may be?
Even so, the readings provide us with a way out of our difficulty, a way for us to awaken from our dream and to see things as they really are. The path to wakefulness has Jesus posing to us the same question he asks his disciples in today’s gospel: who do you say I am? Against the background of all that we know of the earthly life of Jesus – especially of his passion and death and resurrection – who do we say that he is? On our answer to this question depends our response to the angel’s summons. On our answer to this question depends the path that we choose to walk. It was so for Peter and Paul. Clinging to Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, holding fast to their dream of a God who continually rescues God’s people, they found the wisdom and the courage to live the reality of life in its fullness, such that even their deaths were deaths unto glory.
How are we, in our turn, being called to dream unto reality today?