Wednesday, 18 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the anniversary of two great Major Papal Basilica in Rome, second only in importance to the Cathedral of Rome itself, the Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. These two great Basilicas, the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside Walls, have been dedicated to the Lord in the name of two of his great Apostles, St. Peter the Apostle, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, as well as St. Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles.

The Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican was built over the exact site where St. Peter was martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero at the time of the first great persecution of Christians. The site was once known as the Vatican Hills, and was the place of a great racing course. It was there that St. Peter was brought in chains, and crucified upside-down at the end of his earthly life. It was the place where the glorious life of this first Pope, Leader of the Church and faithful Apostle ended, where he entered into heavenly glory.

This was at the end of a long life of service of this Apostle who was once called from the shores of the lake of Galilee by the Lord alongside is brother St. Andrew, as well as the brothers St. James and St. John, fellow Apostles. He was a brash, illiterate and poor fisherman, a man without pedigree and power, without glory or fame, and yet the Lord chose him and called him to be His Apostle, and made him to be the leader of all of the Apostles and disciples and His Vicar over all the whole world.

It was this same St. Peter whom we heard in our Gospel passage today, coming towards the Lord walking on the water, just after he and the other disciples saw Jesus walking in the storm on the water towards them. St. Peter was the one who spoke up and asked the Lord that if that was really Him, and not a ghost, he would be able to walk on the water towards Him. But he had doubts and began to sink into the water and cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord reached out to him and saved him from the water.

Through this, and many other occasions such as St. Peter’s thrice denial of the Lord at the moment of His arrest and Passion, showed how this man was indeed imperfect and flawed as all of us are, and was a sinner and unworthy just like all of us, all the same. Yet, deep inside his heart, the Lord knew that St. Peter had great and wonderful faith in Him, a love that is truly deep and genuine above all else. And that was why the Lord chose him to be the leader of His whole Church.

St. Peter went on to lead the whole Church, by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, guiding the Church on many pivotal occasions as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles as well as in the Apostolic traditions, eventually establishing many important Sees like in Antioch and Rome. He went on to Rome as its first Bishop and that is why, the See of Rome is the Apostolic See, the Seat of the Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff, the Heart of all Christendom until this very day.

Meanwhile, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was built at the place and house where St. Paul spent his two years or so in Rome at the end of his last missionary journey and travel to Rome as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles in our first reading today. St. Paul went to Rome as part of his appeal over his conviction by the tribunal of the Sanhedrin in Judea, to appeal to Roman Emperor for his case.

St. Paul ministered to the people in Rome, both the Jews and Gentiles alike, helping the Church there to grow and establish firm foundation. He strengthened the faith of many in that city and preached the Good News to many more people, in tandem with the efforts of St. Peter and the other disciples. And St. Paul also fell victim to the same great persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Nero, who used the Great Fire of Rome as a pretext to put the blame on Christians for what history had attributed to the Emperor himself.

St. Paul was beheaded and martyred in Rome, a faithful defender of the Christian faith. However, much like St. Peter, St. Paul was also imperfect and a sinner, being once a great enemy of Christ and His faithful in his youth. As Saul he had brought a lot of suffering and misery on the faithful in Jerusalem, Judea and other places as a zealous young Pharisee in his misguided efforts to eradicate and destroy the Church and all of Christ’s believers.

It was their respective conversions that transformed them into great champions of the Christian faith, their repentance from their faults and their acknowledgement of their love for God became bright light of inspiration for many who followed in their footsteps. They truly embody what each and every one of us as Christians are called to do, that is to be holy and to glorify our bodies and existences, which are indeed the Temple of God’s Holy Presence.

Today as we rejoice in the remembrance of the Dedication of the two great Houses of God, the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls we are reminded that we have to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles in their faith and dedication in serving the Lord. That is how we glorify our own Temple, the House of God’s Holy Presence in which the Lord Himself dwells. If we do not bring glory to God through our lives and instead bring scandal and wickedness, then we shall be judged by those and thrown into hell.

Are we willing and able to follow in the footsteps of St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as the other Holy Apostles and saints, all the holy men and women of God in dedicating ourselves to the Lord each and every moments of our lives? Let us all make holy our Holy Temple of God, our body, mind, heart and soul, so that we shall be worthy dwelling place of our God. May our actions and deeds be filled with faith and may we grow ever more in our dedication to the Lord, and be ever closer to Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Luke 19 : 11-28

At that time, Jesus was then near Jerusalem, and the people with Him thought that God’s reign was about to appear. So as they were listening to Him, Jesus went on to tell them a parable. He said, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to assume regal authority, after which he planned to return home.”

“Before he left, he summoned ten od his servants and gave them ten pounds of silver. He said, ‘Put this money to work until I get back.’ But his compatriots, who disliked him, sent a delegation after him with this message, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.'”

“He returned, however, appointed as king. At once he sent for the servants, to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in, and reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver has earned ten more pounds of silver.’ The master replied, ‘Well done, my good servant! Since you have proved yourself faithful in a small matter, I can trust you to take charge of ten cities.'”

“The second reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver earned five more pounds of silver.’ The master replied, ‘And you, take charge of five cities!’ The third came in, and said, ‘Sir, here is your money, which I hid for safekeeping. I was afraid of you, for you are an exacting person : you take up what you did not lay down, and you reap what you did not sow.'”

“The master replied, ‘You worthless servant, I will judge you by your own words! So you knew I was an exacting person, taking up what I did not lay down, and reaping what I did not sow? Why, then, did you not put my money on loan, so that, when I got back, I could have collected it with interest?'”

“Then the master said to those standing by, ‘Take from him that pound, and give it to the one with ten pounds.’ But they objected, ‘Sir, he already has ten pounds!’ The master replied, ‘I tell you, everyone who has will be given more; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for my enemies who dis not want me to be their king, bring them in, and execute them right here in front me.'”

So Jesus spoke, and then He passed on ahead of them, on His way to Jerusalem.

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilicas)

Matthew 14 : 22-33

At that time, immediately, Jesus obliged His disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowd away. And having sent the people away, He went up the mountain by Himself, to pray. At nightfall, He was there alone. Meanwhile, the boat was very far from land, dangerously rocked by the waves, for the wind was against it.

At daybreak, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. When they saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, thinking that it was a ghost. And they cried out in fear. But at once, Jesus said to them, “Courage! Do not be afraid. It is Me!” Peter answered, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

Jesus said to him, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water to go to Jesus. But seeing the strong wind, he was afraid, and began to sink; and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately stretched out His hand and took hold of him, saying, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?”

As they got into the boat, the wind dropped. Then those in the boat bowed down before Jesus, saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God!”

Wednesday, 18 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Psalm 150 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in the vault of heaven. Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him for His own greatness.

Praise Him with trumpet blast; praise Him with lyre and harp. Praise Him with dance and tambourines; praise Him with pipe and strings.

Praise Him with clashing cymbals; praise Him with clanging cymbals. Let everything that breathes sing praise to the Lord. Alleluia!

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilicas)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, YHVH!

Wednesday, 18 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Revelations 4 : 1-11

After this, I looked up to the wall of the sky and saw an open door. The voice which I had first speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here and I will show you what will come in the future.”

Immediately I was seized by the Spirit. There, in heaven, was a throne and One sitting on it. He Who sat there looked like jasper and carnelian and round the throne was a rainbow resembling an emerald. In a circle around the throne are twenty-four thrones and seated on these are twenty-four elders, dressed in white clothes, with golden crowns on their heads.

Flashes of lightning come forth from the throne, with voices and thunderclaps. Seven flaming torches burn before the throne; these are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there is a platform, transparent like crystal. Around and beside the throne stand four living creatures, full of eyes, both in front and behind.

The first living creature is like a lion, the second like a bull, the third has the face of a man and the fourth looks like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures has six wings full of eyes, all around as well as within; day and night they sing without ceasing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, Master of the universe, Who was, and is and is to come.”

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to the One on the throne, He Who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him and worship the One Who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns in front of the throne and say, “Our Lord and God, worthy are You to receive glory, honour and power! For You have created all things; by Your will they came to be and were made.”

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilicas)

Acts 28 : 11-16, 30-31

After three months, we boarded a ship that had spent the winter at the island. It belonged to an Alexandrian company, and carried the figurehead of Castor and Pollux as insignia. We sailed for Syracuse, staying there for three days; and, after circling the coast, we arrived at Rhegium.

On the following day, a south wind began to blow, and, at the end of two days, we arrived at Puteoli, where we found some of our brothers, who invited us to stay with them for a week. And that was how we came to Rome. There, the brothers and sisters had been informed of our arrival, and came out to meet us as far as the Appian Forum and the Three Taverns.

When Paul saw them, he gave thanks to God and took courage. Upon our arrival in Rome, the captain turned the prisoners over to the military governor, but permitted Paul to lodge in a private house, with the soldier who guarded him.

Paul stayed for two whole years, in a house he, himself, rented, where he received, without any hindrance, all those who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God, and taught the truth about Jesus Christ, the Lord, quite openly and without any hindrance.

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.

Monday, 29 June 2020 : 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.”

Monday, 29 June 2020 : 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!

Monday, 29 June 2020 : 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!

Monday, 29 June 2020 : 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.”

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.