Feast of Saints Peter and Paul: Year B

Saints Peter and Paul are examples of wholehearted devotion in the service and worship of God. They laid the foundations for the Church, built up daily by the Holy Spirit.

icon-home » About the Bible » Sunday Reflections » Sunday Reflections Year B » June: Year B » Feast of Saints Peter and Paul: Yea...


First Reading: Acts 12:1-11

  • Peter’s extraordinary experience with the angel is fascinating: look at the physicality of the angel who taps Peter on the side to wake him. At the same time, there is the supernatural light that filled the cell because of the angel’s presence. You might like to reflect on connections here to the story of Raphael and Tobias in the book of Tobit.
  • The early Church was a persecuted Church; we’re told plainly here of the death of St. James and the plan to kill St. Peter. There are many Christians around the world suffering persecution today. How does their suffering affect us?

Psalm: Psalm 33(34): 2-9

  • In this psalm we encounter wonderful confidence in the Lord’s willingness to hear prayer and answer with protection.
  • It is interesting to contrast this confidence with Peter’s astonishment that his deliverance was in fact real, and not merely a vision or dream.

Second Reading: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18

  • If 2 Timothy was indeed written by Paul, it represents the last of his writings; in it he writes a final farewell and encouragement to his protégé Timothy.
  • Paul speaks of those who long for the Lord’s appearing; his second coming, which we profess in the creed. Would you say that you long for that coming?
  • Like the psalmist, Paul is full of confidence in salvation provided for him by the Lord, and that confidence leads him to spontaneous praise at the end of the passage.

Gospel: Matthew 16:13-19

  • This famous and significant Gospel passage has many resonances and connections, too many to touch on here, but one thing to note is: Jesus’ question is phrased in a very interesting way. Firstly, he doesn’t ask what people think of him or his teaching, but he asks who people think he is. It’s a question about identity. Secondly, he refers to himself indirectly; he doesn’t ask who people think “I” am, but “the Son of Man”. The question of who Jesus is dominates the large sections of the synoptic Gospels.
  • You might like to reflect on both the declaration of Peter’s role as the one on which the Church is built, as well as the power to bind and loose sins.  What does it mean, for example, to bind or loose a sin?
  • Peter’s recognition of who Jesus is, attributed to the revelation of the Father, is not a passive observer in the events unfolding in the Gospels. Rather, Jesus’ incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection have Trinitarian aspects.


I love 2 Timothy, I think it’s an extraordinary letter. For a time the dominant view was that it was written long after Paul’s death, but I’m more and more persuaded by the view that it was indeed written by Paul.

If you read through the letter you’ll see so many tender personal details, even down to asking for his cloak to keep himself warm.

Paul was at the end of his life. If he did write the letter, he was in prison in Rome, probably awaiting his execution.

He would have known what awaited him, and so he wrote a letter of farewell and encouragement to Timothy, one of his younger fellow workers in the mission of the gospel.

The section of 2 Timothy we have today comes almost at the end of the letter: perhaps Paul’s very last words recorded by the Holy Spirit.

He tells us that his life is even at that moment being poured out as a libation. A libation is a sacrificial pouring of liquid in worship: some ancient religions would pour milk on the ground, or wine onto an altar. Today, some people pour alcohol onto the grave of a loved one, often their favourite drink. In any case, it’s an image of sacrificial worship, a theme that has emerged in a few ways this month.

Paul’s life was offered in worship to the Father, sanctified and set apart as holy. Moreover, it’s not a one off deal; this pouring was continual, like slowly pouring water out of a kettle, almost drop by drop.

Do we view our lives in a similar way? Do we view each moment of our life as another drop poured out as an offering to God? Do we devote ourselves to God, as Paul did? It’s quite a challenging perspective. It sounds radical. We do our bit, we go to Mass, we try to be good: do I really need to offer every drop of my life to God?

Paul would, of course, encourage us to say yes. He goes on to say he’s run the race right to the end, he’s kept the faith. He has faithfully lived for God as much as he could. And he says that his reward is therefore waiting for him, and he longed for it. There is an echo of Paul in St. Ignatius of Antioch’s plea that his people do not try to stop his martyrdom, but to let him go to the glory that awaited him.

St. Peter, likewise, threw himself into his following of Jesus without half measures. If you remember the Maundy Thursday account, when he offered not only his feet but his hands and his head to be washed.

Both Saints Peter and Paul are examples of wholehearted devotion – poured out in the service and worship of God. In their own ways they laid the foundations for the Church, the Church built up daily by the Holy Spirit.

Let’s pray today that the same Holy Spirit would move us to serve God a little more today.


  • Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2031: moral life as worship
  • Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
  • Vatican II, Lumen Gentium: esp. Chapter 3 on the Episcopate