Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the great pillars of the Church, particularly the Church of Rome, the heart of Christendom and the Universal Church. Saints Peter and Paul were martyred for their faith in Rome, and that is why they formed the pillars of the Church there, just as a saying correctly said that, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians”.
Persecution, suffering, and martyrdom did not prevent the people from searching for salvation in the Church, and in the faith in Christ, but instead these actually propelled more and more people towards the Lord, and therefore, through the sufferings and deaths of martyrs, the Church grew and grew ever more, made fertile by the blood of martyrs, many of whom became incredible sources of inspiration for all of the Christians.
But do not think that these saints and martyrs are superhuman in nature. They are the same human just like all of us here, but they have been made great by the Lord, who saw the good that is in them, and their love and dedication for Him. They were normal, humble people made great by the power of the Holy Spirit.
St. Peter and St. Paul both had had their weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and they had succumbed to human temptations and evil once. St. Peter denied the Lord three times out of fear of his life, and St. Paul was a great persecutor of the faithful in God in the early part of his life, as Saul. But the Lord deemed them worthy, and therefore, they were chosen from among so many other people, and they were made great by the Lord our God.
St. Peter was chosen from among the Apostles to be the one to uphold the entire Church of the Lord, that is all the people of God, united as one Body, with Christ at its head, and Peter as His Vicar in this world, as His representatives, carrying out His will. Thus St. Peter became the first Pope, the first Vicar of Christ, the head of the Universal Church. St. Peter did much work to advance the cause of the Lord, establishing many Christian communities, such as in Antioch, of which Peter was also its first bishop.
Then St. Peter went on to Rome, to preach there and lead the growing Christian community in that capital of the Roman Empire. The Emperor of Rome at that time, Emperor Nero treated Christians harshly and persecuted them in false accusations on that they were the ones who caused the Great Fire of Rome, which was actually caused by Nero himself in order to clear land to build a new Palace to feed his own grandiose and megalomaniac ideas.
St. Peter fled from that great persecution with the other Christians, but along the way out of Rome, on the road, he met Christ, who appeared to him while carrying a cross on His back. St. Peter, recognising Christ, asked the Lord, “Quo vadis, Domine?” which means “Where to, Lord?” or “Where are you going, Lord?” Jesus was carrying the cross in the direction of Rome, and He said to Peter, “Ad Romam iterum crucifigi” which roughly means, “To Rome, to be crucified again.”
Hearing this, St. Peter realised that suffering is truly part of being the Lord’s disciples, and persecution that awaits them should not be looked upon with fear, but instead with joy and courage, knowing that one had done the right thing in defending his or her faith in God. He gained strength, courage, and resolve, and he turned back and returned to Rome.
Eventually, St. Peter was martyred, by crucified on a cross. Yet again, St. Peter showed his great qualities, in that, in full knowledge of his unworthiness, he rejected that he should die in the same way as His Lord had died, that is to be crucified on the cross, and instead asked to be crucified upside-down, that in his unworthiness, he did not die the same way that Christ had died for all of us for the sake of our salvation.
There went the first Bishop of Rome, in his life and journey towards the Lord, the first Pope, whose successors went down the generations, keeping the faith faithfully, and remain as the keepers of the kingdoms of heaven as granted by Christ, and as the Vicar of Christ on earth. Indeed, no power on earth or hell may be able to stand against the Church of God, built on the solid rock foundation that is the faith of the apostle St. Peter.
St. Paul also went to Rome, and was beheaded during the height of the persecutions of Christians. He faced death willingly and openly, and his death, together with that of Peter, continued to seed the growing Christian populations in Rome and beyond. Today we are commemorating those two great saints, and we hope to be able to emulate their examples in our own daily lives.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us from today onwards learn of the examples following the footsteps of the Apostles, especially that of Saints Peter and Pail the pillars of our faith. Do not be afraid, and do not need to be disheartened when we face trouble and persecution, for the Lord will be with us, and He will provide for those who love Him.
Do not be afraid and keep faith. The Lord provides for us and He guides all of us, just as He provided for Saints Peter and Paul during their times of tribulation, during their long years of ministry to the Lord’s people and Church. We too can follow their examples and follow in their footsteps, even in these modern day. We must be strong and faithful as Peter was, and be vocal and courageous as Paul was.
May the Lord be with us, and with the prayers of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, may all of us become better Christians, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and strive to do more good for the sake of our brethren. God bless us all. Amen.