St. Peter and the pearly Gates

Friends in Christ, it is not uncommon to hear stories about ‘when you meet St. Peter at the pearly gates of heaven.’ Where does this idea of Peter at the Pearly Gates come from? Well, it is from the Book of Revelation.
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In Relvelation, heaven is described as a heavenly city. The streets are made of gold, and the foundation of the city is made of precious gems. Then it says: each gate of the city is made out of an enormous pearl. So there you have it: the gates of heaven are made out of pearls!
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So who has the key to get into these gates of heaven? If we recall, Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom, ‘You are Peter and on this rock I build my church, and I give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’ We have this image of Peter with the keys to the Pearly Gates.
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The first reading today brings to mind a similar symbol. A crippled man is lying at the beautiful gate of the temple, he is begging. Now the temple is a symbol for heaven. And this man begging outside, he is a symbol for us sinners desiring entry into heaven. ‘Seeing Peter and John at the gate, he asked for alms. Peter, gazing upon him said, silver and gold I have not; but what I have, I give thee: ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, arise and walk!; And taking him by the hand he raised him up, and immediately he began to walk, and went with them through the beautiful gates, leaping and praising God. He went into heaven.
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This man is us: lost sinners begging for help. Peter represents the Church, who brings the saving power of Christ to us. Freed from our sins, we leap with joy because now the gates of heaven are open to us. This image may be an old one, but it is still a vivid image of heaven which is helpful to us.
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Just yesterday I was talking with the children in school about the temple. The Holiest part represented heaven, and it had a special curtain blocking the way in. But when Jesus died on the cross, the curtain was torn in two. What does that represent, I asked them? ‘Oh, that’s easy said one boy, it means that the gates of heaven are now open.’ And that’s exactly right.

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