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.

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.