Keys and Sword
On June 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, in the Vatican Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed the pallium on 44 archbishops from five continents appointed during the past year. Among them was Augustinian Recollect Mario Molina, Archbishop of Los Altos Quetzaltenango, Totonicapán, Guatemala. Vesting with the pallium is a rite that emphasizes the communion of bishops with the successor of Peter. The celebration made me think of the unity and catholicity of the Church and also, in a special way, of the current situation of our Order.
In his homily, the Pope mentioned that in the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul there are statues of the two saints, each easily recognizable by his respective symbols: the keys in Peter’s hands and the sword in Paul’s. Christian tradition has always considered Saint Peter and Saint Paul inseparable. Together they represent, in effect, the entire Gospel of Christ.
The keys represent the authority of the Church. It belongs to Peter, as faithful administrator of the message of Christ, to open the door of the kingdom of heaven. The symbol of the keys appears in the Gospel of Saint Matthew together with the image of tying and loosing (Mt 16:19). “The authority of tying and loosing,” said the Pope, “is the power to forgive sins; and this grace, which weakens the power of chaos and of evil, is at the heart of the mystery and of the ministry of the Church.” The words of Jesus about the authority of Peter and of the Apostles reveal that the power of God is love, love that radiates his love from the Cross.
Iconographic tradition represents Saint Paul with a sword, and we know that this signifies the instrument by which he was martyred. However, reading the writings of the Apostle to the Gentiles, we discover that the sword refers to his mission as evangelizer. Paul’s combat is not one of violence or of war, “but the combat of one who announces the Word of God, faithful to Christ and to his Church, to whom he has committed himself totally. And for this reason the Lord has given him the Crown of glory and has placed him alongside Peter as a column of the spiritual edifice of the Church.”
The keys and the sword are signs of the faith of the Church, a faith that unites us in Christ and that inspires love and hope. We cannot remain in sin or in a selfish or pessimistic vision of the world and of life. Let us experience the love of God and proclaim the Good News with simplicity and with joy.
Fr. Miguel Miró
Order of the Augustinian Recollects