Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate the great celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of the two great Houses of God, two churches dedicated to the two greatest saints of Christendom, the patron saints of the very heart of Christendom, and God’s most esteemed servants, the chiefs of the Apostles.
St. Peter the Apostle and St. Paul the Apostle were two of Christ’s most important disciples, and they were the ones whose works and dedications resulted in the establishment of the Church as we know it today. They helped laid the foundations and the structure from which the Church of God would grow and enabled the faithful to assemble together in the Church of the Lord.
St. Peter the Apostle was the chief and the first among all of Christ’s Apostles and disciples, and he was given the direct command from the Lord Himself, to be the shepherd of shepherds, as the leader of leaders of the faithful, as none other than the very Vicar of Christ Himself on earth, the chief representative of our Lord and the head of the Universal Church, the Body of Christ, which Jesus our Lord is the true Head.
Meanwhile, St. Paul the Apostle was the Lord’s chief evangeliser and the bearer of the Word of God, the Good News to the many nations, the Apostle to the Gentiles. While many of the disciples of the Lord in the beginning preached only to the Jews and kept the word of salvation only to the sons and daughters of Israel, it was St. Paul who took one of the first steps of the Church’s outreach to the non-Jews, the Gentiles, especially to the Greeks.
These two faithful servants of the Lord were very important in their respective roles, St. Peter as the head and leader of the Church, uniting the many and diverse leaders and elders of the Church, establishing many of the churches himself as he went about his missions to many places, and while St. Paul preached to the many nations including the Greeks, and bravely stood up for the faith against the opposition of the Jews and the Roman authorities.
Both of them eventually ended up making the fateful journey to Rome, the centre and heart of the Roman Empire, the superpower at the time, which would eventually persecute the faithful and the Church for many, many years and brought martyrdom to countless faithful souls. The two great Apostles would lead the way in becoming the very first martyrs among them, standing up for their faith.
St. Peter the Apostle would be crucified for his faith, and opting to be crucified upside down for his great humility of not wanting to die in the same manner as his Lord and God had died. St. Paul the Apostle would be beheaded by the orders of the Emperor, both likely blamed for a great fire that occurred in Rome in the year AD 64, which became one of the first official great persecutions against Christians.
Their blood, the blood of their martyrdom became the seeds and inspiration for the future generations of the faithful, many of them also martyred in the same manner, defending their faith courageously against the world. But both of these holy men were not called holy and great, as these two Apostles were themselves once struggling with their faith and weak in their hearts.
If we remember the story of St. Paul, we would know how he used to be a great persecutor of Christians himself, as the champion and zealous defender of the Jewish traditions against the Christians whom he saw as heretics and their teachings as heresy and perversions of the Jewish faith in God. But God made him to see his errors when He showed Himself to him as he was on the way to Damascus, and from a persecutor of Christians, St. Paul, once known as Saul, became a great champion and defender of the Christian faith.
Meanwhile, St. Peter himself was a humble fisherman who plied daily along the lakeshore of the lake of Galilee, spending his time with St. Andrew his brother and the other fishermen catching fishes from the lake into the boats. He would never have dreamed on the task that he would carry out in the name of God. But Jesus did tell him that he would no longer be a fisher of fishes, but instead as a fisher of men from then on.
And we know that St. Peter was not very steady in terms of his faith, just as we saw in the Gospel today, as he was sinking out of fear because his faith in God was shaken up. And we know how St. Peter betrayed Jesus three times during the times of His Passion, when out of fear and self-preservation, He refused to acknowledge Jesus in front of His persecutors, refusing to admit that he was one of His disciples.
Yet, God forgave him and made him the greatest of His disciples, entrusting to him nothing else than His entire flock on earth, the Church itself, and he became the very first Pope. This is because of the love and dedication that St. Peter had shown, as if we notice, St. Peter was almost always the first to go forth and seek the Lord, as shown at the time when He made a miracle for them on the boat, making them catch so many fishes, and on another occasion when Jesus had risen from the dead.
This tells us that, as we commemorate the dedication anniversary of the two great Basilicas dedicated to these two great saints and Apostles of our Lord, that Jesus did not come to call the great and the mighty to serve Him, but rather, He called the simple and the ordinary, sinners and weak people alike, to make them great and mighty, not in the force of might and strength, but in the force of word and faith.
Let us all follow in their footsteps and realise that we still have so much to do as the modern day Apostles and disciples of our Lord. Let us all commit ourselves to bring the Good News, the words of the Gospel to the nations. May all of us be able to share the joy of our faith with one another, and be the light to all the nations, that through our works, just as St. Peter and St. Paul had done, we may bring God’s salvation to many more souls. God bless us all. Amen.