Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilicas)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together with the whole universal Church, the feast of the dedication of two of the four greatest churches in the whole world. These four churches are the primary church buildings of the entire Christendom, and they are the Papal Basilicas, each of which was dedicated to important patron saints of the Church.
The first, head and mother of all the churches of Rome and the whole world is dedicated to our Lord Himself, the Most Holy Saviour of all, and also to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, the Lateran Archbasilica, which feast we had just celebrated a few days ago. It is the Cathedral of the Pope, and the centre and heart of the whole Christendom.
And then after that, in importance and primacy, we have the greatest church in Christendom, the Papal Basilica of St. Peter, which is probably the most well known church in the whole world, as not only that it is the most elaborate but also because the Pope celebrates the majority of his celebrations in that great basilica. St. Peter himself was martyred at the site of the great basilica, the former Vatican hills, and his bones can be found there in its necropolis.
And then we also have the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, or also known as the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major, dedicated to the Mother of our Lord and the Protector of the city and people of Rome. And lastly, we have the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, or San Paulo fuori le mura, named as such because it was located outside the historical walls of the city of Rome, dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle, who was beheaded in Rome in holy martyrdom.
Today we celebrate the day of the consecration and dedication of two of these four great basilicas, dedicated to none other than St. Peter the Apostle, the Prince of the Apostles, Vicar of Christ and the leader of the Universal Church, and St. Paul the Apostle, the Apostle to the Gentiles and the writer of the many holy Epistles. Both of these greatest two pillars of the Church died in martyrdom in the Holy city of Rome, made holy because of their blood shed in that city, and the two basilicas were built over their respective tombs.
Most importantly, on this day, by looking at the life and examples set by these two saints, St. Peter and St. Paul, all of us are also called to share in their experiences and to emulate them in their actions. They too were once sinners and weak human beings, but through the Lord and their own faith, they changed themselves to be truly faithful and devoted servants of God.
God did not call the perfect and those who are already awesomely good in life to be His disciples, as they are likely to be already saved and secure in their lives in the world to come. Instead, He empowers those who are weak and fragile, and also calls those who are sinners and unworthy, who by His grace and power, are transformed to be holy tools and servants of His will.
Indeed, is it not better that those who were sinners and unworthy, by the works and graces of God be made to be worthy and just? And that was exactly God had done, wit two of His principal Apostles, the two greatest pillars of the Faith and the Church. St. Peter was a simple, poor fisherman, whose faith was often weak and he often trembled in doubt, while St. Paul was an overzealous and extreme Pharisee, who was hell bent on destroying the Church and the faithful.
St. Peter was called by Jesus from the shores of the lake of Galilee, together with his brother, St. Andrew, who was the first to be called among the Twelve Apostles. St. Peter was a humble and simple fisherman who made his living by catching fishes from the lake. Jesus called him to be a fisher of men instead, and he left behind his net and boat, and followed Him.
Yet during his period of service to God, St. Peter often encountered many difficult moments. Today we heard in the Gospel, of the moment when he and the other Apostles were in the middle of the lake going through a great storm, and the Lord came to them walking on the water. St. Peter was the one who offered to test the Lord to find out if it was truly Him on the water, and when the Lord asked him to come towards Him, he went forth.
But for his lack of a solid faith without doubt, seeing the power of the storm and the waves, he began to falter and sink. Thus, the Lord rebuked him for his doubts after He helped him. And we know of how Peter denied Jesus three times during His Passion. It was also because of the same doubt and uncertainty, which led to fear of the retribution of the world and its powers, which led to Peter to do such things.
But the quality of Peter comes in that, he was courageous and brave, ready to take the initiative, as we know that out of all the Apostles, he was the only one in the boat to seek to walk towards the Lord, even proposing that if He is indeed the Lore, he, Peter would be able to walk on the water. Such an act, does require an incredible amount of courage and faith. Indeed, that faith was to be shaken, but it was there indeed.
And Peter eventually made the thrice profession of faith, after Jesus had risen from the dead, and when He asked him, whether he loved Him more than anyone else. In that profession of faith and love, Peter knew that he was forgiven for his denial of Jesus, and in that also, we can see the kind of faith and love which he had for the Lord, and that was why, he was made to be the Vicar of Christ on earth, and the leader of the entire Universal Church.
Meanwhile, St. Paul was once known as Saul, as a great enemy of the Church and the faithful, as some sort of an executioner, who belonged to the caste of the Pharisees, young and overly zealous, that he was blinded by his rage and youthful pursuits, seeking to destroy the Church and kill as many believers as possible. Thus, he brought the Church and the Lord much sorrow and sadness.
Yet, he was transformed from such a sinner and great enemy, into the greatest champion of the Faith, and into a figure so important and crucial to the growth of the Church and the spreading of the Good News in the early years of the Church. St. Paul as Saul encountered the Lord speaking directly to him and rebuking him for his actions on the way to Damascus, and ever since then, he repented and was converted to the Faith.
St. Paul thereafter became a great evangeliser, who went on many journeys to different cities and places to spread the Good News, and for his works and efforts to spread the Faith to the Gentiles, he was then appropriately titled as the Apostle to the Gentiles. And together with St. Peter, they went on to Rome, the capital city of the Empire, and there they were martyred for their faith. The locations where they were martyred and buried then became the two great Basilicas we know today.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s celebration of the dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul is a reminder to all of us, that God seeks our salvation, and He calls us all to return to Him, all of us sinners that we may be, like St. Peter and St. Paul before us, turn from our sinfulness and path of darkness, into the light and become holy servants following the examples of the two great saints whose memory we remember today.
May Almighty God therefore, with the intercession of St. Peter and St. Paul, be hearkened to strengthen our zeal and faith, so that we may become ever faithful and loving in our lives, that eventually, at the end of the days, when He comes again, He may congratulate us for our dedication and welcome us into His eternal kingdom. God bless us all. Amen.
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