Saturday, 29 June 2019 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of two saints who are among the most important saints of the Universal Church and in particular of the Church of Rome, the seat of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, the leader of the whole Church. Today we mark the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, two of the most prominent of the Apostles of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

St. Peter was the leader of the Apostles and the one to whom the Lord Jesus has entrusted the governance of His entire Church, to be the shepherd among shepherds, supported by the Apostles and the other disciples, as the pillars of the Church of God. It was on the faith of St. Peter, whose name means the ‘Rock’ from his name ‘Petros’ in Greek and ‘Cephas’ in the original Aramaic, that God Himself established the firm foundation of His Church.

Meanwhile, St. Paul was once known as Saul, and although he was once a fanatic Pharisee and enemy of the faithful, but God called him to be his Apostle, to be the one He sent to the people especially to those who are of the non-Jewish origin, also called the Gentiles. Hence, that is why St. Paul is also known by his title of the Apostle to the Gentiles, in the crucial role he played in delivering the faith and the message of God’s truth to many places.

We may then think that St. Peter the Apostle and also St. Paul and the other Apostles are like superhuman and mighty beings, unlike us all. But the truth is in fact that St. Peter, St. Paul and all the other Apostles are no more and no less as human as we are, as flawed and weak as we are, as vulnerable and as sinful as we are. They were called from their various backgrounds and origins, all with the same purpose, that is to serve the Lord.

In our first reading passage today, we heard about St. Peter and how he had been arrested by the order of king Herod who had earlier on put St. James the Apostle to the sword in martyrdom. And the same fate would have been St. Peter’s, and he waited for the day of his trial in the prison. Yet, the Lord had a different plan for St. Peter, as He sent His Angel to break him free of his chains and opened the way for him to escape back to the Christian community.

This was just one among the many trials, challenges and difficulties that St. Peter had to endure in the time of his service and work as an Apostle. And just imagine that St. Peter was initially just an uneducated, rough and unintellectual fisherman who sailed his fishing boat in the Lake of Galilee, a lowly profession, looked down upon and often ignored by the society as a whole. This same fisherman then became a great Apostle, travelling from places to places, preaching and revealing the truth of God to many people, Jews and Gentiles alike.

This was the same St. Peter, who was the one that denied the Lord not just once but three times, when the Lord was arrested by the Jewish authorities and despite having pledged his dedication and desire to serve the Lord and to even die for Him. At that moment, the faith and courage of St. Peter faltered and when confronted by the people who claimed that he belonged to the group of the Lord Jesus, he denied any involvement and denied knowing Him.

And if we look at St. Paul, at the time when he was still known as Saul, there could not have been a worse and more unlikely candidate to be the servant of God than him, for there he was, a young and fanatical Pharisee, whose methods in seeking for and arresting those who professed the Christian faith was particularly brutal and repressive, putting into prison and probably even killing those who have been known to be the followers of the Lord.

Yet, God called Saul when he encountered Him on the way to Damascus to destroy the Christian community there. He came to see the truth of God and received the wisdom and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and from then on, became a committed and hardworking disciple and servant of the Lord, a total change and conversion from his previous life and principles. From a great sworn enemy of the Lord and His Church, into His greatest champion and defender.

That was the same change that the Apostles, including St. Peter experienced as they received God’s love and promise of the Holy Spirit, when at Pentecost they were bestowed the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. And for the case of St. Peter, in the Gospels, we heard of how the Lord Jesus forgave him and called on him to renew his commitment, knowing that despite having denied him three times, he did so out of fear and uncertainty, but still with a heart that is focused, centred and filled with faith and love for Him.

That is why the Lord asked St. Peter three times, “Peter, do you love Me?” To which St. Peter responded with, “Yes, Lord, you know everything, you know that I love You.” This threefold profession of love by St. Peter is not only symbolic of how God has forgiven his threefold denial, but also a reaffirmation of what God has said in today’s Gospel passage, that He has established His very own Church on the firm foundation of the Rock of faith that is St. Peter.

And just as St. Paul who dedicated himself to the Lord so well and so courageously, in his many missionary and evangelising journeys throughout the cities of the Eastern Mediterranean region, enduring the worst persecutions and challenges, ridicules and humiliations, imprisonment and even threats to his life, St. Peter and St. Paul dedicated themselves, having been called and chosen by God to be the instruments of His good works among His own people.

St. Peter and St. Paul eventually would come to Rome as the last part of their earthly ministry and journey. St. Peter having established many Christian communities in the cities of Antioch among many others came to Rome to be the first of the bishops of Rome, as the elder and overseer of the Church community in Rome, and by virtue of his position as the leader of the Apostles and the Church, he became the first Pope, the first of God’s Vicar on earth.

Meanwhile, St. Paul came to Rome during his last missionary journey as part of his evangelising journey as he went for his last trial, being falsely accused by his enemies and the Jewish authorities, and he claimed the right he had as a Roman citizen to stand before the Roman Emperor and to be tried by him in Rome. St. Paul therefore came to Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire and according to the Acts of the Apostles, he ministered to the faithful there and helped to establish the Church.

Eventually, great persecution of Christians occurred, under the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero, who blamed the great fire that happened in the city of Rome to the Christians as scapegoats. And both St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred in that city, the city of Rome, as great witnesses of their faith for the Lord, glorifying Him in their death just as it had been by their lives and many good works for His sake.

St. Peter was arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to die by crucifixion in the area now known as the Vatican, where now the great Papal Basilica of St. Peter and the Vatican City is located at. St. Peter, with great conviction and humility, proclaimed that he was not worthy to die in the same manner as his Master, Lord and Saviour. Therefore, he asked to be crucified upside down on the cross, and he died glorifying God.

St. Paul was also imprisoned and made to suffer by the same persecution, and he was martyred by beheading in Rome, marking the end of his many years of service and struggle for the sake of the Lord. But similarly, by his death in martyrdom, he proclaimed the glory of God, and became a great inspiration, together with St. Peter and the other Apostles, for the faithful throughout the ages to follow.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this great Solemnity in the memory of these two principal Apostles of the Church, the great St. Peter and St. Paul, holy servants of God, let us all reflect on our own lives. God has in fact called us all in many different ways, just as He has called St. Peter and St. Paul all those years ago. He has given us the same gift of the Holy Spirit and the many talents and abilities we have, and He has called us to be His servants and disciples just as the Apostles had been.

We are all called to be the successors to the works that the Apostles had done, which they had given their whole lives for, in glorifying God. And as I said earlier, God did not call these people from their great or even superhuman origins. Rather, He called ordinary people, from ordinary backgrounds and even from those that we may think or presume to be unlikely and impossible origins.

He called His Apostles and gave them the strength, courage and wisdom to do what He has called them all to do. That is exactly what we should be doing as well. In our own ordinary lives and in our daily living, we should therefore put our trust in God, and turn towards Him wholeheartedly so that we may truly be inspired by the courage and the examples showed by the Apostles that we may bring glory to God by our every actions in life.

Let us all be good and courageous witnesses of our faith in God, in each and every days of our lives. Let us all be like the holy Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, in how we live our lives as great testimonies of faith so that hopefully many more people would be inspired and touched to follow the righteous path towards God’s salvation. Holy Apostles, St. Peter, Vicar of Christ and Prince of the Apostles, pray for us, and St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, pray for us. Amen.

Saturday, 29 June 2019 : 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.”

Saturday, 29 June 2019 : 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!

Saturday, 29 June 2019 : 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!

Saturday, 29 June 2019 : 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, 22 February 2018 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate together the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, one of the celebrations commemorating the leader of Christ’s Apostles and His vicar on earth, besides that of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul in the month of June. On this day, we are focusing on the Chair or indeed, better known as the Cathedra of St. Peter, the first Bishop of Rome and Pope.

Some of us might be wondering, why is it that we celebrate the feast of a chair, even if it is the Chair of St. Peter himself as the Vicar of Christ. That is because we must understand the importance of chair in the historical context of the Church. A chair is historically related as the symbol of power and authority, much as thrones are for kings and rulers. When a king or ruler is enthroned, he or she symbolically receives the power and authority to reign over his or her kingdom.

Similarly therefore, the chair for the bishops of the Church symbolises their authority, the authority to teach the Gospels and the truth of God to the people, as well as their administrative and spiritual authority over the flock and the people entrusted under his care. And throughout the dioceses in the world, there is a particular chair in each of the dioceses, in a particular church, named the cathedra as mentioned, as the seat of the bishop’s authority, and the churches with the cathedra are called cathedrals.

There is in fact an actual physical cathedra belonging to St. Peter in the Vatican, at St. Peter’s Basilica, where the chair that is supposed to be St. Peter’s actual chair of teaching is placed in the most prominent place above the high altar on the eastern end of the Basilica, underneath the famous and magnificent dove imagery representing the Holy Spirit. This signifies the authority of the Pope as the successors of St. Peter as the Bishop of Rome and as leader of the entire universal Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, nonetheless, the celebration today is much more than just the celebration of a physical and actual chair possessed by St. Peter at the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican. In fact, this celebration is more about the authority which the Lord Himself has delegated to His vicar, St. Peter as well as to his successors as Bishop of Rome and Pope, in leading all the faithful people of God, His flock and faithful ones.

But if we imagine that St. Peter is someone who was amazing and great, glorious and mighty, then we ought to remember that he was once a mere poor fisherman trying out his best to make a living by fishing in the lake of Gennesaret or Galilee. It was as a poor, illiterate fisherman that the Lord Jesus encountered him and his brother, St. Andrew the Apostle. And many other Apostles and disciples of the Lord also came from humble and unremarkable origins.

Yet, the Lord chose them and called them to follow Him, and for some among them, He entrusted them to become the most important among all of His disciples as the Apostles because they had qualities in them which the Lord discovered, and which He deemed to be worthy. It was not us who make ourselves worthy, but God who makes those whom He called to be worthy.

And the tasks He entrusted to the Apostles were not easy ones, as challenges and difficulties were abound. They had to face persecutions and oppressions from various sources, from those who were against the Church, the teachings of the Lord and against whatever good works that they had done among the people. They had to endure prison, arrests and torture, sufferings and rejections from time to time.

St. Peter himself had to endure the same difficulties, as he travelled from place to place establishing the foundations of the Church in those places. When he was in Rome, Christians there were persecuted heavily at the reign of the Emperor Nero, and together with St. Paul, St. Peter himself was martyred during the reign of that Emperor. He suffered with his flock and remained true to his calling as a shepherd of the Lord.

He remained committed to the end, and humbly even requesting the Romans who were about to crucify him to put him on the cross upside down, as he felt it was not right for him to be crucified and died in the same manner and way as his Lord and Master. Through all of these examples, St. Peter had shown us how he is truly a devout and hardworking servant of God, who places his responsibility to the Lord above everything else.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember all the things that the Apostles had done, especially St. Peter in all the works he had done. Through him, the Lord had established His Church in this world, built upon the strong foundation of faith which he had, and upon the faith and commitment of the Apostles. But their hard works were not yet complete, and there are still many things that we can do in this world, fulfilling the vocation to which we have been called to.

Each and every one of us as Christians ought to follow the examples of our holy predecessors. And as we are all part of the one Church of God, which is the same Church that He established upon the foundation of His Apostles, especially St. Peter the Apostle, let us all do our respective parts, in order to work together as one Church, under the authority of the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, who themselves are united to the successor of St. Peter, our Pope, the leader of the Universal Church.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless the Church He has built, so that we may always stay together and remain strong in our faith and in our dedication to serve the Lord, and preach more and more of the Good News to the people who have not yet heard of it. Let us all deepen our faith and commit ourselves more wholeheartedly to fulfil the mission which the Lord had entrusted to His Church. May the Lord bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 22 February 2018 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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-Jona, 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.”