Wednesday, 29 June 2022 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the occasion of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, two of the great Apostles of the Lord, courageous and most faithful servant of God, who have dedicated their whole lives to the glory of God, fulfilling the calling and mission which the Lord had entrusted to both of them, as most important pillar, support and foundation of the whole Church in this world. St. Peter and St. Paul are honoured together as the Apostles of Rome, the heart and centre of all Christendom, the seat of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and successor of St. Peter as the leader of the entire Universal Church and all the faithful.

St. Peter was the leader of all the Apostles as the Prince of the Apostles; and leader over all the faithful, appointed by God Himself to be the Rock and foundation of the Church and as His Vicar on earth. In that capacity, St. Peter is the one representing the one true Head of the Church, the Chief Shepherd of all, none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, our Lord and Saviour. St. Peter became the Vicar of Christ, the one entrusted with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and with the leadership over all the whole entire Universal Church. He has been entrusted with the leadership and maintenance of the Church, and his role as Vicar is truly a very important one.

Through him and his leadership, and by the succession of all those who was chosen to be his successor, St. Peter became the visible symbol of unity and the one upon whom all the faithful throughout Christendom orientate themselves towards, in following his examples and that of his successors, that through them they may come towards God and find their way towards Him through the Church. As the first Pope and Bishop of Rome, St. Peter in his many other works and capacities helped to maintain the unity of the Church and to resolve the issues arising among the faithful communities at that time, as shown in his leadership during the First Council of Jerusalem as listed in the Acts of the Apostles, resolving with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the other Apostles, the matter of whether the Gentiles ought to be bound by the Jewish laws and customs or not.

Meanwhile, St. Paul the Apostle was the great evangeliser and labourer of faith, known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, establishing the roots and the foundation of the Church in numerous places throughout the known world at that time, in conjunction with the efforts of many other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, working together with many missionaries and people of God, in courageously proclaiming His truth and love to the whole world, letting everyone know of the salvation in Jesus Christ and all that had been revealed through His Church and His Apostles. He travelled on many missionary journeys to various parts of the Mediterranean world with various companions, intent on bringing God closer to the people who had not yet known Him.

St. Paul also wrote extensively in many Epistles or letters to the various congregations and communities of the faithful, many of which were included in the New Testament as part of the Sacred Scriptures, in which the Apostle inspired many of the faithful and exhorted them to avoid the path of sin, entrusting themselves to God and to turn towards God with faith. He helped to resolve issues and divisions among the faithful communities, and endured many trials and challenges in the midst of his efforts, some of which we can read in the Acts of the Apostles.

As we can see from the great many list of things that these two Apostles had done, we certainly must have thought that these two men were extraordinary people that were truly special and mighty, unlike that of us. But this is where we cannot be more wrong, brothers and sisters in Christ. The two Apostles, like many other Apostles, saints and other great and holy men and women of God, all of them were just like us, they were ordinary people and sinners, just like us. They were no more special and worthy before God just like us all. However, they all entrusted themselves to the Lord and allowed Him to guide them and help them to walk down the path of grace.

St. Peter was a mere poor and illiterate fisherman of the lake of Galilee, who was uneducated, brash and can be violent at times. He did not have the eloquence, skill or intelligence to become the so-called ideal leader of all the faithful. He gave in to the temptation of Satan and tried to persuade the Lord to stay away from His mission only for the Lord to rebuke him and Satan who was misleading him then. He denied knowing the Lord publicly not just once but three times, just not long after proclaiming that he would give his own life in exchange for the Lord, and he fled in shame and wept bitterly for that weakness.

Meanwhile, St. Paul was once known as Saul, a young and overzealous Pharisee born in Tarsus, who became a very ardent and violent opponent of the Lord and His followers from early on, as he embarked on a campaign of extermination of Christians and all those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, or believing in His teachings or propagating them, as a great enemy of all the faithful. This was a person who was although intelligent and capable, but in his actions and identity was the most unlikely person to be chosen as one of the followers of Christ, less still to become one of the Apostles and considered as one of the Lord’s greatest champions.

All these showed us today that God did not choose the perfect to be His disciples or to do His will. We are all flawed after all, sinners and unworthy of God’s great goodness and perfection. Yet, God called and empowered those whom He had called and chosen to be His followers and disciples. He gave them Wisdom, guidance and strength, through the Holy Spirit Whom He had bestowed upon them. He led them down the path that He has pointed out to them, and provided them help and assistance along the way. In that way, St. Peter and St. Paul had did many wonderful deeds for the greater glory of God, in caring for the needs of the flock, in their establishment of a stable and growing, vibrant Church which they patiently guided and nurtured.

And they followed the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly, devoting their time and effort to serve the Lord and His people, and even having to endure many persecutions and trials, for the sake of doing their best to bring God’s salvation to more and more people around the world. Through their perseverance and efforts, God’s words and truth are brought to the knowledge and attention of many people, and many more souls have been brought from the precipice of destruction into salvation in God and eternal life. All of that were thanks to the efforts of the Apostles like St. Peter and St. Paul, who gave their all to the Lord, even their lives.

St. Peter was persecuted and was eventually martyred during the great Roman persecution, in which Christians especially all around Rome were persecuted for their faith, beginning with the persecution by the Emperor Nero. St. Peter was crucified, and while he was to be crucified, as the sign of his great humility, he asked not to be crucified in the same way as his Lord and Saviour. St. Peter asked to be crucified upside-down and it was in that way that he glorified God by his martyrdom in faith. St. Paul was also persecuted in similar persecution, and according to tradition, he was martyred by beheading during the height of the Neronian persecution.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the great examples and faith of these two great Apostles, the Patron Saint of Rome and the whole Universal Church, let us then ask ourselves, have we responded to God’s call and commit ourselves to the missions which He has entrusted to each and every one of us? Or are we still ignorant and reluctant to follow the Lord or to entrust ourselves to Him? The choice is ours, brothers and sisters in Christ, and unless we commit ourselves more fully to the Lord, then we are not yet doing what we should as Christians in our daily living. What are we then going to do about that?

Let us all hence seek the Lord with renewed faith and commit ourselves in the spirit of St. Peter and St. Paul, inspired by the examples and the lives that they had led. May God be with us always and empower us all to follow in the footsteps of the faithful Apostles, at all times and in all opportunities we have in life. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

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.

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.