Friday, 29 June 2018 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this blessed and momentous day, we celebrate the great occasion of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, the Patron saints of the Church of Rome, as both of those great servants of God were martyred in the city of Rome, at that time the capital and centre of the Roman Empire, which ruled most of the Mediterranean and Europe then.

Those two Apostles were considered to be the greatest among the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, for St. Peter was the leader of the Apostles and the one to whom the Lord Jesus entrusted His whole Church, the flock of sheep of the whole faithful. And then, St. Paul was the great Apostle whose role in the evangelisation and conversion of the Gentiles was crucial, through his many missionary journeys and numerous Epistles and letters.

Hence, the two Apostles were essentially important pillars of the Church, together with the other Apostles of the Lord who spread the Christian faith far beyond their origin in Judea and Jerusalem. However, we may think that those Apostles were great and mighty people, who were endowed with great intellect and powerful in the sight of men. But those are the qualities and the perceptions of the world, and not what God’s truth prescribes.

Just as the Scriptures said, ‘It is not man who chooses to be worthy of God, but rather, God who made His people to be worthy.’ Essentially, we do not claim to be worthy of God, for if we judge ourselves by God’s standards, none among us are worthy of Him. But God empowered ordinary, mortal men like us to be His disciples, and make us to be worthy through the works He performed through each and every one of us who did His works.

Likewise, many of the Apostles came from humble and ordinary background, and even most likely of origins, those whom the world would never have thought to be possible as even consideration for those who would be called to the position and responsibility as the disciples and followers of the Lord God Most High, King of all kings and Master of the whole universe.

Many of the Apostles were illiterate and uneducated, as poor fishermen, and some others were rebels and thieves, and simple people making their living in various professions and works. One was a tax collector reviled and hated by his own countrymen, and deemed as a sinner for his work and role. And yet some were once enemies of the Lord and the faithful, like St. Paul had been, in his younger days.

St. Peter himself was a simple fishermen at the Lake of Galilee, doing his work and making a living, doing what many considered as a menial and unappreciated profession. But when the Lord Jesus came and called him, St. Peter together with his fellow fishermen left behind their fishing nets and boats, and followed Him from then on, to be fishers of men, just as He had told them.

He would go on to be the leader and the chief among all the disciples and followers of the Lord, because of his great faith and love for the Lord. But of course this did not mean that he had a perfect faith and pathway during his journey of faith. In fact, as we all should have known, St. Peter during the time when the Lord was arrested and tortured during His Passion, denied that he knew the Lord not just once, but three times.

He was utterly devastated after having realised the truth, and he was disappointed on his lack of faith, especially after he professed his faith and dedication to the Lord earlier on during the Last Supper. But unlike Judas Iscariot, the traitor, who also showed regret but chose to take the easy and cowardly way out through suicide, St. Peter chose the path of repentance and recommitment to God.

St. Peter reaffirmed his faith and dedication to the Lord, when the Lord Jesus spoke to him privately, asking him three times, “Peter, do you love Me?’ And Peter reaffirmed his love for Him with true sincerity and genuine intention. The Lord entrusted His Church and His entire flock to his care as leader of the Church and Vicar of Christ, through the words, ‘Feed My lambs’.

St. Peter would face many difficulties, challenges and persecutions, including what we have heard from the Scripture passage from the Acts of the Apostles, telling us how St. Peter was arrested during the episode of persecution by king Herod Antipas. He was imprisoned and was slated to face martyrdom just as what happened to St. James, the brother of St. John, by the same king Herod Antipas.

But God had greater plans for St. Peter, and He sent His Angel to free St. Peter from prison as we heard in our first reading passage today. He would continue from then on, to lead and guide the Church of God, and eventually established more Christian communities, becoming the first Bishop of Antioch and the Bishop of Rome. It was told that at the end of his missionary journey, he went to Rome, the capital of the Empire.

Meanwhile St. Paul was once known as Saul, who came from the region and city known as Tarsus, in southern part of what is now Turkey. He was born as a Pharisee, who were influential group of the Israelite elites at that time, particularly devoted to the preservation and conservation of the traditions and laws of the Jewish people. And St. Paul himself mentioned how he was very fanatical and dedicated to the cause of the Pharisees, even more than many others.

Hence, he was a great enemy of the faith at the very beginning of the Church. As Saul, according to the Acts of the Apostles, he took part in the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, who died defending the faith, stoned by the enemies of the faith, including Saul himself. And Saul took part in the intensive persecution of the Church, causing great fear and grief among the early Christian communities.

Surely, he would have been the least likely among those who would turn towards the Lord and be a Christian, at least in our worldly view of things. How could such a great enemy of the faith become one of the members of the Church? But as mentioned in the Scriptures, what is impossible or seemingly impossible for men, is possible for God. And God had a different plan for Saul.

He called Saul on the way to Damascus, when he was bent on destroying the Church and the faithful living in that city. He converted to the faith and turned himself completely from his past mistaken ways, and entrusted himself to the Lord and hearkened to the mission that was entrusted to him. Thus, he became the renowned St. Paul, a great enemy of the faith and the Church turned into one of its greatest champion and defender.

St. Paul travelled extensively throughout the eastern part of the Mediterranean region, visiting cities and towns, establishing Christian communities in those places and evangelised the faith to the pagan and non-Jewish peoples. His particular approach and passion in bringing about the faith and opening the door of salvation and the Church to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people made him to be remembered as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

We knew of his many letters or Epistles to the various Church communities, in Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Galatia, and many more, and he was renowned for his great missionary zeal and commitment to the Lord, that just as St. Peter had suffered many persecutions and difficulties, St. Paul, as well as the other Apostles, also had to endure similar tribulations and trials.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, both St. Peter and St. Paul dedicated themselves completely, to serve the greater purpose of the Lord, the conversion and the salvation of souls, and the establishment and empowerment of the early Church. They were truly exemplary in their actions, as the important foundation of the Church of God, because of which, the Church, as the Lord had said, remained firm even in the midst of the most intense persecutions and trials, to this very day.

St. Peter himself, in the end, met his martyrdom in Rome, punished to die on the cross. To the very end, he showed his great faith and love for God, by humbly requesting that he should not die in the same way as his Lord and Master. He was crucified upside down at the site where now the great Basilica of St. Peter stands. Meanwhile, St. Paul was beheaded as part of the great persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Nero. Yet, the contributions and the importance of these two Apostles remain strongly felt even to this very day.

Now, each and every one of us as Christians must follow in the footsteps of those courageous and holy servants of God, by realising that all of us are the successors of the Apostles, who ought to continue the good works that they have begun among the people of God. There is a need for witnesses of the faith, to continue spreading the message of God’s Good News and truth among the people of various nations.

Are we able to dedicate ourselves to the Lord as the Holy Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul had done? Are we able to live our lives as faithfully as they have done, in the giving of their whole lives and their whole effort to serve the greater glory of God? We are called to follow in their footsteps, and if we think and feel that we are not worthy, as we probably do, then we must realise that no one will ever be worthy of God, as we are all sinners by nature.

Rather, we must realise that God makes those whom He calls, to be worthy, and He called us in various ways, to follow the path that He has shown us. He called us from our various origins, backgrounds, and from our past, wicked and sinful lives, all to become His disciples, with a renewed life, with a new purpose, to devote ourselves to a new Christian existence, showing our faith by examples of our life.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to guide us in our lives. May St. Peter and St. Paul, holy Apostles and patrons of our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, intercede for us, and pray for all of us in the Church of God, that all of us will remain true and faithful in our dedication and life to the Lord. May God bless all of us and bless all of our endeavours. Amen.

Friday, 29 June 2018 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, You are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Friday, 29 June 2018 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Timothy 4 : 6-8, 17-18

As for me, I am already poured out as a libation, and the moment of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, with which the Lord, the just Judge, will reward me, on that day, and not only me, but all those who have longed for His glorious coming.

But the Lord was at my side, giving me strength, to proclaim the Word fully, and let all the pagans hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will save me from all evil, bringing me to His heavenly kingdom. Glory to Him forever and ever. Amen!

Friday, 29 June 2018 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

I will praise YHVH all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in YHVH; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

YHVH’s Angel encamps and patrols, to keep safe those who fear Him. Oh, see and taste the goodness of YHVH! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!

Friday, 29 June 2018 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 12 : 1-11

About that time king Herod decided to persecute some members of the Church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword, and when he saw how it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.

This happened during the Festival of the Unleavened Bread. Herod had him seized and thrown into prison with four squads, each of four soldiers, to guard him. He wanted to bring him to trial before the people after the Passover feast, but while Peter was kept in prison, the whole Church prayed earnestly for him.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound by a double chain, while guards kept watch at the gate of the prison. Suddenly, an Angel of the Lord stood there and a light shone in the prison cell. The Angel tapped Peter on the side and woke him saying, “Get up quickly!”

At once, the chains fell from Peter’s wrists. The Angel said, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” Peter did so; and the Angel added, “Now, put on your cloak and follow me.” Peter followed him out; yet he did not realise that what was happening with the Angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.

They passed the first guard, and then the second, and they came to the iron door leading out to the city, which opened by itself for them. They went out and made their way down a narrow alley, when suddenly the Angel left him. Then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know that the Lord has sent His Angel and has rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from all that the Jews had in store for me.”

Thursday, 28 June 2018 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 21 : 15-19

At that time, after Jesus and His disciples had finished breakfast, He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these do?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And He added, “Follow Me!”

Thursday, 28 June 2018 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Galatians 1 : 11-20

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, that the Gospel we preached to you is not a human message, nor did I receive it from anyone, I was not taught of it; but it came to me, as a revelation from Christ Jesus. You have heard of my previous activity in the Jewish community; I furiously persecuted the Church of God and tried to destroy it. For I was more devoted to the Jewish religion than many fellow Jews of my age, and I defended the traditions of my ancestors more fanatically.

But one day, God called me, out of His great love, He, Who had chosen me from my mother’s womb; and he was pleased to reveal, in me, His Son, that I might make Him known among the pagan nations. Then, I did not seek human advice nor did I go up to Jerusalem, to those who were Apostles before me. I immediately went to Arabia, and from there, I returned, again, to Damascus.

Later, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. But I did not see any other Apostle except James, the Lord’s brother. On writing this to you, I affirm before God that I am not lying.