Thursday, 18 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of not just one but two of the four great Major Papal Basilicas in Rome, namely the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican as well as the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. These two great Basilica are among the most prominent churches in Christendom, just below in prestige and honour to the Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and the Pope, which Dedication we just celebrated earlier this month.

These two great Papal Basilicas were also appropriately named and consecrated in the name of the two great Apostles of the Lord, the patrons and protectors of the city of Rome and the Universal Church, for St. Peter the Apostle, the Prince of the Apostles and the first Vicar of Christ, and St. Paul the Apostle, the Apostle to the Gentiles, were both martyred in Rome after many long years of ministering to the Church of God and the faithful.

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter, probably the most famous of all the churches in the world is where the Pope currently celebrates most of his liturgical celebrations, as the largest church in all Christendom and also as it is adjacent to his residence in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City. It also stands atop the site where St. Peter was likely martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero in the first great persecution of Christians, with the tomb of St. Peter located just below the great Altar of the Basilica.

Meanwhile, the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls as its name suggests, was located outside the old boundaries of the ancient city of Rome, at the exact site mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as the place in which St. Paul resided during his time in Rome. He had relatively a lot of freedom in Rome and went about quite freely among the people, both the Jewish diaspora in Rome and among the Gentiles alike, ministering to the faithful and proclaiming the truth and the Good News of God.

As we recall today the moment when these two great Houses of God, the worthy places and Temples of His Holy Presence, were consecrated to God and dedicated to Him, we are therefore called and reminded that we are all also God’s Holy Temples, the Temples of His Holy Presence, the Temples of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul himself in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth spoke of this, comparing each and every one of us to the Temple of the Holy Spirit, exactly because God Himself has dwelled in us, by the Holy Spirit He has sent down to us, as well as through our partaking of the Eucharist, Our Lord’s own Most Precious Body and Blood.

As such, we are all reminded through the examples set by the two great Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, whose names adorn those two great Basilicas, that we all have to be faithful to the Lord in the same manner as St. Peter and St. Paul had been faithful and committed to God in all things. And if we think that we are unworthy or that it is impossible for us to be faithful to God as they had been faithful, then we have to remember that those two great Apostles were themselves once also ordinary, sinful men.

St. Peter was an uneducated and illiterate fisherman, whom the Lord called to follow Him at the shore of Lake Galilee. This same St. Peter was the one who denied knowing the Lord three times at the moment of His arrest and suffering during His Passion, and denied Him publicly before all, even after he declared that he would die for the sake of the Lord just earlier on the same night. It is the same St. Peter whose faith was wavering as we heard in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord asked him to come towards Him in the middle of the storm, walking on the water.

Then for St. Paul the Apostle, he was once a great enemy of the Church and all the faithful, being a young zealot among the Pharisees named Saul who was dead set on destroying the Church and persecuting all the faithful, all who proclaimed the Name of Jesus and His teachings. St. Paul as Saul persecuted thousands across Judea and beyond, and was feared by many of the faithful, who went into hiding in fear of the retribution and the actions of that young zealot and others who persecuted them.

As you can see, both Apostles were once great sinners and flawed, that many would not have imagined how these two could have become great Apostles, as the greatest of the Lord’s champions and defenders in the end. Yet, that was what had exactly happened. God did not choose the holy and worthy, the powerful, intelligent or mighty to be His disciples, but rather, He empower those whom He had called and chosen, who responded to His call and committed themselves to Him, to be holy and worthy, as St. Peter and St. Paul had done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Are we willing to respond to God’s call as well? Through baptism, all of us have responded to God’s call, but many of us are still not yet truly committed to Him. Many of us still keep on holding to our past, sinful practices and way of life, and many still have placed the Lord as secondary in importance in their lives. Are we then able and willing to embrace the Lord and His calling for us, to accept the mission entrusted to us and to live our lives worthily as holy and devout Christians from now on?

Let us discern these carefully today as we remember our great rejoicing on this Feast of the Dedication of the Papal Basilicas of St. Peter in Vatican and St. Paul Outside the Walls. May all of us, God’s living Holy Temples, the Temples of His Holy Presence continue to strive to keep ourselves holy and worthy, that in our every words, actions and deeds, we will always be exemplary in our Christian living and conduct, and do our best to proclaim the truth of God in all things, following the courageous examples of St. Peter and St. Paul, Holy Apostles of God. Amen.

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