Mini-Studies for the
Vigil of Sts. Peter and Paul

First Reading: Acts 3:1-10

1 Peter and John went up to the Temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth (hour). 2 A certain man, being lame from the womb of his mother, was being carried, whom they (always) set during the day at the gate of the Temple, the (one) called "Beautiful (Gate)," to beg alms from the (people) entering the Temple. 3 (The lame man) having seen Peter and John being about to enter the Temple (kept) begging to receive alms. 4 Peter, having stared at him, along with John, said, "Look at us." 5 The (lame man) held (his eyes) on them, (eagerly) waiting to receive something from them. 6 Peter said, "Silver and gold is not on me, but what I do have this I give to you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, [rise and] walk about." 7 Having grasped him by the right hand, (Peter) raised him up. Suddenly, his feet and ankles were made strong, 8 and leaping about, he stood and walked about and entered with them into the Temple, walking about, leaping, and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking around and praising God. 10 They realized that he himself was the (one) sitting for alms at the "Beautiful Gate," and they were filled with astonishment and amazement about the (miracle) having happened to him.

3:1 "...hour of prayer, the ninth (hour)." In the ancient world, the time of day was counted from dawn, about 6:00 AM. Adding nine hours to dawn would make the time 3:00 PM. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, Temple sacrifice was offered twice a day, at dawn and at the ninth hour.

3:2 "Beautiful (Gate)" The place of this entrance to the Temple is unknown.

3:2,3 " beg alms..." is literally "to ask a merciful (gift)."

3:7 "...(Peter) raised him up." The person who grasped the lame man by the hand and raised him up is not named. In context, however, we can assume Peter was the most likely subject of the sentence.

3:8,9 The repetition of "leaping," "walking about," and "praising God" heightened the entrance scene into the Temple. The man born lame now could walk and the commotion the healing caused moved into the Temple itself. The worshipers now became witnesses to the miracle done in the name of Jesus.

3:10 "...they were filled with astonishment and amazement... " The two words expressing emotion are actually synonymous; together they make an emphatic statement about the reaction of the crowd in the Temple.

The healing narrative at the Temple created an undercurrent between two activities: 1) what the people offered to God and 2) what God gave to the people. The people, along with Peter and John, went to pray at the time of Temple sacrifice; this was a moment in the day to offer worship to God. But, it was God who, through the two Apostles, gave a real reason for praise: a lame man was cured. A man who could not enter God's dwelling on his own could now leap into the house and praise God for divine power in his life. The people both outside then inside the Temple witnessed the power of God in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. In that moment, the symbol of the people's antiquity (the Temple) met a sign of the coming end times (when all will live without infirmity). The gift of God overshadowed the habitual offering of the people.

Here, Peter acted as a conduit for the Spirit. The healing of the lame man and the power of Peter's message would help faith in Jesus reach the people.

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Second Reading: Galatians 1:11-20

11 Brothers, I make known to you the Good News being spread by me, that (news) is not from man. 12 For, I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught (it), but through a revelation from JESUS CHRIST.

13 You heard about my conduct (back) then in Judaism, that, with violence, I kept pursuing the church of God and kept trying to destroy it; 14 and I progressed in Judaism beyond many contemporaries among my people, being exceedingly zealous of my fathers' traditions. 15 But, when [God], having set me apart from my mother's womb and having called me through his grace, was well pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might spread the Good News about him among the nations, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 neither did I go up to Jerusalem to those (being) apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia and again I returned to Damascus.

18 Then, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to visit with Kephas and stayed with him fifteen days, 19 but I did not see (any) other of the apostles except James, the brother of the Lord. 20 What I write to you, Look! Before God, I do not lie.

1:15-17 This long sentence described what Paul did after his conversion experience. The sentence can be broken down into a temporal clause ("when God...was pleased to reveal his Son to me..."), then the multiple subject-object clauses: 1) "I did not confer with anyone", 2) "nor did I go to Jerusalem to go before the apostles," 3) "but went to Arabia and returned to Damascus."

1:18 Kephas was the Aramaic name for Peter. Since Jews who lived in Palestine during the time of Jesus spoke Aramaic, it natural to assume Jewish-Christians would have referred to Peter by his Aramaic name, not his Greek name ("Petros" or Peter).

St. Paul saw his ministry differently from the other traveling Christian missionaries of his time. Paul held that his commission to preach came directly from Christ AND the content of that preaching came directly from Christ. These verses from his letter to the Galatians laid out his case for direct revelation. Paul persecuted the church as a zealous Jew, then, through the grace of God, he received his call. 1:15-19, however, were key to his case. Paul didn't confer with the leadership of the Church for three years; when he did go, he limited his time and his contacts to the leader of the Apostles (Kephas, who we know as Peter) and the leader of the mother church in Jerusalem (James, a relative of Jesus). Paul was so emphatic about his assertion that he sealed it by swearing an oath (1:20).

Part of Paul's motivation to travel and evangelize lie in the directness of God's activity in his life. Jesus called Paul; Paul taught others what Jesus revealed to him. His calling and teaching has become a central part of Christian Scripture and tradition.

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Gospel:  John 21:15-19

15 When they had ate the meal, JESUS said to Simon Peter, "Simon, (son) of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to HIM, "Lord, you know I love you." HE said to him, "Graze my lambs." 16 HE said to him a second time, "Simon, (son) of John, (do) you love me?" He said to HIM, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you." HE said to him, "Shepherd my sheep." 17 HE said to him a third time, "Simon, (son) of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because HE said to him for a third time, "Do you love me?" He said to HIM, "Lord, you know everything. You know I love you." JESUS said to him, "Graze my sheep. 18 Amen, Amen, I say to you. When you were young, you belted yourself and walked around where you wanted. But, when you grow older, you will stretch out your hands; another will belt you and will bring you where you do not want (to be)." 19 HE said this signifying in what kind of death he will glorify God. Saying this, HE said him, "Follow me."

21:15-17 John used different wording to drive home the same point. Jesus asked for loving devotion ("agape" in 21:15-16) and companionship ("phileo" in 21:17). Peter retorted, insisting Jesus knew of his commitment ("phileo" in all three verses). Jesus responded with "grazing" the lambs in 21:15, "shepherding" the sheep in 21:16, and "grazing" the sheep in 21:17. Because the images are so close and the language in John is so loose, the words for love are synonymous, as well as the activity of the shepherd.

21:18 "you belted yourself and walked around where you wanted" Belting one's outer garment was the final step to prepare for the day's activities outside the home. The phrase referred to self initiative and independent mobility. It is a sly reference to 21:7 when Peter "belted himself" and swam to see the Lord.

21:18-19 Jesus used a proverb to indicate the death of Peter. According to tradition, Peter was martyred. Whether the description used in the proverb literally or figuratively referred to the way Peter died (upside down on a cross in the Caesar's circus yard in the Vatican) is a matter of dispute. However, command to love and to follow Jesus that acted as bookends to this proverb made it clear that Peter was to act as Jesus and follow Jesus on the road that led to death (and to resurrection).

This reading redressed Peter's denial of Jesus before his death. The Risen Lord asked Peter three times about his devotion; three times Peter professed his love for the Lord; three times, Christ instructed Peter to feed the followers [15-17]. Confirming Peter's choice, Jesus used an old proverb as a prophecy for Peter's death; when he was young, he was free, but now he has made his choice, he must live with the consequences of that choice [18-19]. Like Peter, a Christian's life of faith and service leads to death (to the world) and a new life (in Christ and his community).

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