Tuesday, 29 June 2021 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the two Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, the two Apostles of Rome and the pillars of the Universal Church, representing the unity of the Church in St. Peter and his successors, the Popes as the Lord’s very own Vicars on earth, and the evangelical outreach and missionary efforts of the Church as shown by St. Paul and his numerous efforts and journeys to spread the words of God especially to the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people.

That is why St. Peter was known as the Vicar of Christ and the Prince of the Apostles, to signify his leadership and central role among all the Apostles, as the cornerstone on which the Lord has established His Church, as the firm bedrock of faith, a strong foundation on which He built His Church, the Body of Christ, the union of all the faithful people of God. He is truly Peter, the Rock, the symbolic meaning of the name which the Lord Himself has granted on him.

And St. Paul was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, as the one who had sown the seeds of faith in so many communities all around the Mediterranean and other parts of the world, marking the beginning of the rapid growth of the Church despite the various persecutions and the many trials and challenges that it encountered. St. Paul through his many missionary journeys and the numerous Epistles or letters that he wrote, had a crucial role in the establishment of the various communities of the faithful.

Today, we celebrate their most wonderful life and memory, united together in martyrdom in the Holy City of Rome, the very heart of all Christendom, as both St. Peter and St. Paul by Apostolic traditions, were martyred in that city, the then capital of the great Roman Empire, during the first round of vicious persecutions of Christians. St. Paul was martyred in the immediate aftermath of the Great Fire of Rome by the Roman Emperor Nero, while St. Peter was martyred not very long afterwards during the same reign of the Emperor Nero.

Today we celebrate this great Solemnity in their honour, as the great celebration of the entire Universal Church in union with the Church of Rome, of which St. Peter and St. Paul are both patrons of, by virtue of their martyrdom there, and especially for St. Peter as the first Bishop of Rome, through which all the Popes are their successors. Therefore, we celebrate together united as one Church, all in union with our Pope Francis, as the successor of the great Apostle, St. Peter, the first Pope and Vicar of Christ, as well as the great missionary, St. Paul the Apostle.

Today as we celebrate this great Solemnity, we are reminded that the Lord called and chose His Apostles not from among those who considered themselves good and worthy, but He had called and chosen instead those whom He had determined to be worthy in their hearts and minds, for He knows all things in everyone. Take for example, St. Peter the Apostle, who was known as Simon, son of John, Simon bar Jonah, who was a mere fisherman of the lake of Galilee, illiterate, brash and at times, cowardly and unreliable.

How so? St. Peter was the one who suggested to the Lord that he would be ready to die for the sake of the Lord, and had the sword ready by himself, which he used to cut the ears of one of the Temple guards, Malchus, when the Lord was arrested at the Gardens of Gethsemane. Yet, very soon afterwards, he would deny knowing the Lord before those who asked him, not just once but three times. One may indeed wonder why the Lord chose such a person to be His Apostle, and less so still, why He made him to be His Vicar and the leader of the entire Universal Church.

That is because God knows the heart, and He knows the faith and love that St. Peter had for Him since the very beginning. He regretted very much his denial of the Lord and wept bitterly after having committed such an action, and did not give in to despair like Judas Iscariot, who killed himself after betraying the Lord. Instead, when the Lord was risen, he was one of the first to go forth and look out for Him, and he was the first to recognise the Lord at Galilee, when He appeared before them on the shore as the disciples were fishing.

When the Lord Jesus asked St. Peter after that occasion, whether he loved Him, St. Peter responded in all the three times that the Lord asked him, that he loved Him and how the Lord also knew that he loved Him from deep within his heart. This symbolised the Lord’s forgiveness of St. Peter for his three times denial at the moment of His arrest and Passion. The Lord reaffirmed His love for St. Peter just as the Apostle also reaffirmed his love for the Lord, and confirmed his dedication and desire to follow Him to the very end.

That was how St. Peter responded to his calling, and he went on leading the Church together with the other Apostles, resolving conflicts between the different factions within the Church and establishing communities of the faithful in various places, becoming the first Bishop of Antioch, where there was the first stable community of believers. He went on to Rome eventually, and as the persecution of Christians occurred, he was arrested, put in chains and eventually was crucified. Not wanting to die in the same way as his Lord and Master, he humbly asked to be crucified upside-down, and died a martyr at the place where the great Papal Basilica of St. Peter now stands.

St. Paul meanwhile was also the most unlikely of Apostles and servant of God. He was once Saul, the greatest enemy of Christians in the very earliest days of the Church. He was a young and zealous Pharisee who wanted nothing less than the destruction of the Church and the punishment for all those who followed Christ and His way. He went around from places to places, arresting and persecuting many Christians, and through him many ended up suffering and in prison, from this brutal first persecution of Christians in Jerusalem and Judea.

But he encountered the Lord on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus, and the Lord called him to follow Him. Saul therefore repented from his previous actions and decided to be baptised a Christian himself, and from then on, he became a most ardent and courageous defender of the Christian faith. In St. Paul therefore we see the example of one who has also embraced God’s call wholeheartedly and followed Him.

St. Paul went from a persecutor and enemy of Christians to be the Lord’s most ardent defender, himself often being in danger for his life, and was persecuted many times, enduring prison and sufferings for the sake of the Lord. From someone who had a bright future among the Pharisees, respected and with prestige, St. Paul chose to follow the Lord instead and abandon worldly comfort for the truth of God, which he proclaimed courageously before all.

He also defended the rights of the Gentiles, especially those who had chosen to turn towards the Lord and became Christians. Against all those who wanted to impose the strict Pharisaical Judaic laws on the Gentile Christians, St. Paul stood his ground and managed to confirm that such imposition was unwarranted and unnecessary, and hence, laid the foundation for an even more rapid acceptance of the faith by many more among the Gentiles.

He was also martyred in Rome, at the end of his many missionary journeys, as he chose to appeal to the Emperor over the false accusations by the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem, when he stood there in trial. By that, he went to the capital of the Empire, and began to minister to the people there. He was martyred in the aftermath of the Great Fire of Rome which was likely orchestrated by the Emperor Nero himself but was blamed on Christians, who henceforth were persecuted and killed as martyrs. St. Paul was beheaded at that same time.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate the Solemnity in honour of St. Peter and St. Paul today, let us all therefore remember the great faith and love these two Apostles had for the Lord, as well as the courage and dedication by which they committed themselves to the Lord. Let us all realise that we should also follow in their footsteps and walk in the path that the Lord has called us to follow through, and be faithful and dedicated as the two Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul had been faithful. This is our Christian calling, brothers and sisters, what we need to do as those whom God has called and chosen.

Today, on this special day for the Church, let us all pray together for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, the successor of St. Peter and the current Vicar of Christ. Let us pray for his intentions and seek the Lord’s guidance that He may always bless and guide His Church, and that He will always be with us all through the many trials and challenges we may encounter in life. May He strengthen us in our faith and give us the courage to remain faithful to Him, and to walk in His path at all times. May all of us be ever closer to the Lord and be united as always in the union we share, under the leadership of our Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021 : 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.”

Tuesday, 29 June 2021 : 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!

Tuesday, 29 June 2021 : 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!

Tuesday, 29 June 2021 : 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.”

Monday, 28 June 2021 : 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!”

Monday, 28 June 2021 : 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.

Monday, 28 June 2021 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Monday, 28 June 2021 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 3 : 1-10

Once when Peter and John were going up to the Temple at three in the afternoon, the hour for prayer, a man crippled from birth was being carried in. Every day they would bring him and put him at the Temple gate called “Beautiful”; there he begged from those who entered the Temple.

When he saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple, he asked for alms. Then Peter with John at his side looked straight at him and said, “Look at us.” So he looked at them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you : In the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, walk!”

Then he took the beggar by his right hand and helped him up. At once his feet and ankles became firm, and jumping up he stood on his feet and began to walk. And he went with them into the Temple walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God; they recognised him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, and they were all astonished and amazed at what had happened to him.

Monday, 29 June 2020 : 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 glorious memory of the two great Apostles of the Church in Rome in particular and also of the Universal Church as a whole. On this Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, we remember the great contributions that these two faithful follower and servant of God had given throughout their lives and ministries, in proclaiming the truth of the Gospel and revealing the truth of the Good News.

St. Peter the Apostle was the leader of the entire Universal Church as the Vicar of Christ, as the one to whom the Lord Jesus Himself has entrusted the leadership and care of the entire Body of Christ, the Church. He was known as the Prince of the Apostles and as the leader of the Twelve Apostles, the one whom the entire Church looked up to for leadership and guidance during the early days of the Church.

St. Peter went about his own missionary journeys and works, travelling from places to places recorded especially in the early part of the Acts of the Apostles, when he went to places like Lydda and Joppa, and he was also instrumental in leading the first Council of the Church in Jerusalem, when he led the Apostles in reconciling the two opposing sides that were then bitterly divided regarding the matter of obedience to the old Jewish laws and traditions, and the attitude shown towards the Gentile converts to the faith.

St. Peter founded several Christian communities and dioceses, most prominently of which were two of the greatest five Sees of ancient Christendom, namely the See of Antioch, the place where Christians were first called as they were by name, and among the first large Christian community of the time, and of course, the Apostolic and Papal See of Rome, the centre of Christendom by virtue of it being the place where St. Peter himself, the Rock of the Church and faith was martyred and buried.

Meanwhile, St. Paul was truly the greatest missionary and evangeliser of the faith, as he travelled on four great missionary journeys and many important travels across many cities and towns of the Mediterranean region, spreading the word of God to many of the communities of the people of God, composed of both Jews and Gentiles or non-Jewish people alike. Through St. Paul and his many works, tireless travels and efforts, as well as his many letters and Epistles to the many Christian communities, the Church has been greatly strengthened.

For all of these contributions and hard work, St. Paul was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, and he has dedicated his life to the spreading of the truth of God among the non-believers, by ministering to them, speaking to them and patiently enduring all sorts of challenges and trials he had to face and encounter. He certainly did not have it easy and on more than one occasions, he truly brushed death itself very, very closely. He had to go against many people who opposed him, both from the Jews who refused to believe in the Lord, as well as from the Gentiles who viewed the Christian faith as a threat to their old, pagan ways.

Eventually, St. Paul at the end of his ministry and at the last of his missionary journeys went to Rome as part of his trial where he sought appeal to the Roman Emperor for his case put forward by his enemies among the Jews in Jerusalem. St. Paul would stay on in Rome for a while and ministered there to the people of God, to the growing community in Rome, before eventually, he was also martyred in Rome as St. Peter had also suffered.

Listening to the examples and inspiring greatness of these two Apostles, we must have been swayed to think that the Lord had such wonderful and mighty servants by His side, and that we are nothing compared to them. But this is something which we need to dispel from our thoughts, and which we all need to realise just how all of us, every single one of us are equally blessed and called by God to be holy and to walk in the footsteps of St. Peter and St. Paul, Holy Apostles of God.

Why is this so? That is because, looking at these two holy men of God, we cannot but wonder just how great a transformation they had experienced, as they were in the beginning just like us all, sinners and unworthy, weak and vulnerable, and in both cases, they were seemingly most unlikely to be the ones God would be using as His tools and instruments in bringing His salvation and truth to His people.

That is because, in the beginning St. Peter was merely an uneducated and illiterate fisherman of the lake of Galilee, someone who was of little importance and often overlooked and ignored. St. Peter was also not truly firm in his faith, and he was tempted by Satan before and in moments of distress such as when the Lord Jesus was arrested, he denied knowing the Lord not just once but three times, fearing for his life and worrying that his affiliation with the Lord would be discovered by the bystanders at the trial of Jesus. This was after at the Last Supper, St. Peter proclaimed that he would even lay down his life for the Lord.

And St. Paul was known earlier on as Saul, a great enemy of the Church and the Christian faithful. Saul persecuted the Church throughout Jerusalem and all of Judea, and was even in the midst of trying to expand this persecution to beyond the land of Israel, in Damascus when he encountered the Lord and was converted. The persecution was truly great and many suffered and had to endure prison and more for being a believer of Christ. Saul was burning in his heart with ambition and desire to destroy the Church and the faithful.

Looking at these things, then we must wonder just how amazing God has been, in calling people from the most unlikely sources and origins. God has made the unlikeliest and the most mind-boggling choices in His choice for Apostles and followers, servants and champions of the faith like St. Peter and St. Paul, and many other Apostles, saints and martyrs, all those who have given their lives in the service of God.

This is exactly where the Lord showed us that it is Him Who made us worthy and not we ourselves who consider ourselves to be worthy of Him. In fact, the more we think that we are worthy of God and be proud of it, the less worthy we may become. Instead, let us all be open-minded and allow God to enter into our lives, in order to transform us and change us, that each and every one of us may be just like St. Peter and St. Paul in their courage in faith and deeds, having themselves been transformed by God’s grace.

Seeing how the once uneducated, brash and doubtful St. Peter became such a great defender of the faith and as the foundation of the Church, and also how a great enemy of the faithful like Saul could have become one of Christianity’s greatest defenders should have reminded us that for God, nothing is truly impossible. If God calls us, and if we are willing to respond to that call and welcome God into our lives, with His guidance, we too can walk in the footsteps of the Apostles.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what each and every one of us need to realise is that many of the works of the Church and the Apostles were still in progress, and there are still many areas in which, more people are needed and even more have been called to contribute. Each and every one of us have been blessed in our own unique ways with gifts and talents, all of which we can make good use of for the greater glory of God. Are we then willing and able to commit ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let us all be inspired by the courage and faith of St. Peter and St. Paul, who dedicated the whole rest of their lives from the moment they accepted God’s call, to serve God wholeheartedly, not withstanding the trials and sufferings that they had to endure. Let us all be ever more faithful and dedicated from now on, and seek to glorify God at all times through our lives and actions, in each and every moments of our living. May God bless us all and our good endeavours in faith. St. Peter and St. Paul, Holy Apostles of the Lord, pray for us all, and pray for the Universal Church! Amen.