Wednesday, 18 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the anniversary of two great Major Papal Basilica in Rome, second only in importance to the Cathedral of Rome itself, the Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. These two great Basilicas, the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside Walls, have been dedicated to the Lord in the name of two of his great Apostles, St. Peter the Apostle, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, as well as St. Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles.

The Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican was built over the exact site where St. Peter was martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero at the time of the first great persecution of Christians. The site was once known as the Vatican Hills, and was the place of a great racing course. It was there that St. Peter was brought in chains, and crucified upside-down at the end of his earthly life. It was the place where the glorious life of this first Pope, Leader of the Church and faithful Apostle ended, where he entered into heavenly glory.

This was at the end of a long life of service of this Apostle who was once called from the shores of the lake of Galilee by the Lord alongside is brother St. Andrew, as well as the brothers St. James and St. John, fellow Apostles. He was a brash, illiterate and poor fisherman, a man without pedigree and power, without glory or fame, and yet the Lord chose him and called him to be His Apostle, and made him to be the leader of all of the Apostles and disciples and His Vicar over all the whole world.

It was this same St. Peter whom we heard in our Gospel passage today, coming towards the Lord walking on the water, just after he and the other disciples saw Jesus walking in the storm on the water towards them. St. Peter was the one who spoke up and asked the Lord that if that was really Him, and not a ghost, he would be able to walk on the water towards Him. But he had doubts and began to sink into the water and cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord reached out to him and saved him from the water.

Through this, and many other occasions such as St. Peter’s thrice denial of the Lord at the moment of His arrest and Passion, showed how this man was indeed imperfect and flawed as all of us are, and was a sinner and unworthy just like all of us, all the same. Yet, deep inside his heart, the Lord knew that St. Peter had great and wonderful faith in Him, a love that is truly deep and genuine above all else. And that was why the Lord chose him to be the leader of His whole Church.

St. Peter went on to lead the whole Church, by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, guiding the Church on many pivotal occasions as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles as well as in the Apostolic traditions, eventually establishing many important Sees like in Antioch and Rome. He went on to Rome as its first Bishop and that is why, the See of Rome is the Apostolic See, the Seat of the Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, the Heart of all Christendom until this very day.

Meanwhile, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was built at the place and house where St. Paul spent his two years or so in Rome at the end of his last missionary journey and travel to Rome as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles in our first reading today. St. Paul went to Rome as part of his appeal over his conviction by the tribunal of the Sanhedrin in Judea, to appeal to Roman Emperor for his case.

St. Paul ministered to the people in Rome, both the Jews and Gentiles alike, helping the Church there to grow and establish firm foundation. He strengthened the faith of many in that city and preached the Good News to many more people, in tandem with the efforts of St. Peter and the other disciples. And St. Paul also fell victim to the same great persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Nero, who used the Great Fire of Rome as a pretext to put the blame on Christians for what history had attributed to the Emperor himself.

St. Paul was beheaded and martyred in Rome, a faithful defender of the Christian faith. However, much like St. Peter, St. Paul was also imperfect and a sinner, being once a great enemy of Christ and His faithful in his youth. As Saul he had brought a lot of suffering and misery on the faithful in Jerusalem, Judea and other places as a zealous young Pharisee in his misguided efforts to eradicate and destroy the Church and all of Christ’s believers.

It was their respective conversions that transformed them into great champions of the Christian faith, their repentance from their faults and their acknowledgement of their love for God became bright light of inspiration for many who followed in their footsteps. They truly embody what each and every one of us as Christians are called to do, that is to be holy and to glorify our bodies and existences, which are indeed the Temple of God’s Holy Presence.

Today as we rejoice in the remembrance of the Dedication of the two great Houses of God, the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls we are reminded that we have to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles in their faith and dedication in serving the Lord. That is how we glorify our own Temple, the House of God’s Holy Presence in which the Lord Himself dwells. If we do not bring glory to God through our lives and instead bring scandal and wickedness, then we shall be judged by those and thrown into hell.

Are we willing and able to follow in the footsteps of St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as the other Holy Apostles and saints, all the holy men and women of God in dedicating ourselves to the Lord each and every moments of our lives? Let us all make holy our Holy Temple of God, our body, mind, heart and soul, so that we shall be worthy dwelling place of our God. May our actions and deeds be filled with faith and may we grow ever more in our dedication to the Lord, and be ever closer to Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

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