Saturday, 18 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter and Papal 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 the Church commemorates the feast of the dedication of the two Basilicas, of St. Peter and St. Paul, which together with the Cathedral of Rome, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, and the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore) form the four Major Papal Basilicas in Rome, the most important churches in Christendom.

And the Papal Basilicas of St. Peter in Vatican and St. Paul Outside the Wall are in particular to the city and the Church in Rome, because both St. Peter and St. Paul were the ones who helped to establish the Church in Rome, the heart of the Roman Empire at that time, and became the important pillars of the early Church. As we know, St. Peter is the Prince of the Apostles, the leader of all of Christ’s disciples and Apostles, and the first Pope and Bishop of Rome. Meanwhile, St. Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles, the one who helped the Church to propagate the message of the Gospels to the non-Jewish people.

Thus, these two great Basilicas are tributes and monuments built for the memory of these two most faithful servants of God, who gave their all to serve the Lord, devoting their whole lives to the end, defending their faith and proclaiming Christ the Lord to all men. The sites chosen for the Basilicas were significant places, as where the Papal Basilica of St. Peter was built, was where St. Peter the Apostle most likely encountered his martyrdom, by being crucified upside down, and the site of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was where St. Paul stayed during his time in Rome, as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.

St. Peter as the first Bishop of Rome worked among the faithful, preaching the Gospels and the messages of Christ, which brought about the conversion of many to the faith, together with St. Paul the Apostle, who came to Rome after being persecuted in Jerusalem and throughout his journeys. Both of them led the Christians in Rome, amidst a difficult and turbulent time, culminating in the great persecution under the Emperor Nero.

The Christian population of Rome was accused and scapegoated by the Emperor, blamed for causing the fire that burnt much of the great city. As such, many Christians were tortured and arrested, pursued and had their lives made very difficult. St. Paul himself was martyred in this condition, beheaded for his faith during this great tribulation, and yet he gladly laid down his life for the Lord.

St. Peter was also martyred a few years after this, as the persecution of Christians continued. He was crucified by the Roman authorities at the Vatican hills, as mentioned, where now stands the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican. But St. Peter felt that he was not worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and therefore, asked to be crucified upside-down instead. That was how St. Peter glorified God by his faith and steadfastness to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice in the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of these great Houses of God dedicated to His beloved two saints, the main pillars and foundations of His Church in this world, St. Peter and St. Paul, let us remember that their works and missions are still far from over. There are still many things that are not yet done, and there are still many more areas that require our attention.

We are the modern day successors of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, and the same commands which Our Lord had given to His Apostles to reach out to all the peoples of all the nations, preaching the Good News of God’s salvation and calling them to Him have therefore been passed on to us. Now, what matters is, for us to do what the Lord expects from us to do, that we walk in the path of the Apostles, particularly the glorious and faithful St. Peter and St. Paul. Pray for us, o Holy Apostles! Amen.

Saturday, 18 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter and Papal Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 18 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told them a parable, to show them that they should pray continually, and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain town there was a judge, who neither feared God nor people. In the same town there was a widow, who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Defend my rights against my adversary!'”

“For a time he refused, but finally he thought, ‘Even though I neither fear God nor care about people, this widow bothers me so much, I will see that she gets justice; then she will stop coming and wearing me out.'”

And Jesus said, “Listen to what the evil judge says. Will God not do justice for His chosen ones, who cry to Him day and night, even if He delays in answering them? I tell you, He will speedily do them justice. But, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul)

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!”

Saturday, 18 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter and Papal Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls (Psalm)

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

Psalm 104 : 2-3, 36-37, 42-43

Sing to YHVH, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds. Glory in His holy Name; let those who seek YHVH rejoice.

Then He smote all the firstborn, the first fruits of their manhood. He led Israel out of the alien land, laden with silver and gold, and none were left behind.

For He remembered His promise to Abraham, His servant. So He led forth His people with joy, His chosen ones with singing.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul)

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!

Saturday, 18 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter and Papal Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls (First Reading)

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

Wisdom 18 : 14-16 and Wisdom 19 : 6-9

While all was in quiet silence and the night was in the middle of its course, Your Almighty Word leapt down from the royal throne – a stern Warrior to a doomed world. Carrying Your fearful command like a sharpened sword and stretching from heaven to earth, He filled the universe with death.

All creation in its different forms was fashioned anew at Your command, in order to protect Your people. The cloud covered the camp with its shadow, dry land emerged where water had been. A safe passage was opened through the Red Sea, the tempestuous flood became a green plain where the whole nation of those protected by Your hand passed across, witnessing Your astounding deeds.

They were like horses led to pasture, or like frolicking lambs, praising You, their Lord, Who had delivered them.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul)

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.

Friday, 18 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter the Apostle and the Papal 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, on this day we commemorate together the memorial of the dedication of two of the great Papal Basilicas located in the holy city of Rome, dedicated to the two greatest of the saints of Christendom, the pillars of the Church, none other than St. Peter the Apostle, Prince and leader of all the Apostles of our Lord, and also St. Paul the Apostle, the Apostle to the Gentiles and writer of the many Epistles in the New Testament.

Both of them were martyred in Rome, and therefore were seen as the patron saints of the city of Rome, where their tombs were located at, and at that time, Rome was the heart of the Roman Empire, the heart and centre of the secular superpower that was the Roman Empire, and where the Caesars, that is the Emperors ruled with absolute authority, and demanded from all others obedience and also worship.

For the Emperors were worshipped as gods and as incarnation of the gods, and by elevating themselves to the divinity, they deemed themselves as above others, and thus the Imperial Cult of the Roman Empire was created. And against this, came the two Apostles of our Lord, who in their separate ways ended up in the city of Rome, continuing the missions entrusted to them by the Lord.

And they were not chosen by the Lord for their might, their greatness or their talents, unlike the Roman Emperors who boasted of their wealth, or their human and military prowess. Instead, God chose a diverse range of people, and many of them are just like us, common people with our own stories and unique origins. He called His disciples and chose His Apostles from among fishermen, bandits, even tax collectors and others.

And it was not that their faith was great, or that they were as intelligent as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who at that time were those who were educated in the society, knowing the entirety of the laws of Moses. Most of the Apostles were uneducated and even illiterate, and yet, they went on to perform great deeds, some of which were told to us in the Acts of the Apostles. And why is that so? It was none other than because of the Lord and His works on them.

If we remember the passage from the Scriptures we heard today, and what we know of the Apostles, particularly that of St. Peter and St. Paul, certainly, they did not have an outstanding and great faith from the start. Both of them struggled and were troubled in their faith, and were also shaken at certain times, when doubt overpowered them and made them to tremble, and in the case of St. Peter, to sink in the waves, when he tried to walk towards Jesus, because he doubted.

The Apostles were afraid and doubtful when the elders and the chief priests sent guards to arrest Jesus, after He had been betrayed by one of His own Apostles, Judas Iscariot the traitor. The Apostles fled the scene and went into hiding when their Lord and Master was arrested, and we know how St. Peter himself, after having sworn to give his life for the sake of the Lord that very night, denied his Lord and Master three times in order to protect himself from harm.

I am sure that we also know how St. Paul grew up as a zealous and fanatical Pharisee, determined to hunt down as many followers of Christ as he could, arresting them and torturing them as he was misguided by his blind obedience to the false understanding of the Law of God. In fact, St. Peter and St. Paul were just like us, sinners and filled with doubt, indeed as what some of us would say, that we are unworthy of our Lord and His love.

But what made them different? In fact, what made our holy saints and martyrs to be different from us? It is because all of them went through a thorough and wholesome change in their lives, in how they lived their lives and in how they carried out their actions henceforth, and they turned from sinners and into God’s holy and devoted people, His saints.

St. Peter dedicated his whole life thereafter in the service of God, leading His fellow Apostles and the other disciples of Christ, coordinating the immense task of guiding and leading the early Church through moments of difficulties and through good moments when many became believers and therefore had to require new shepherds and guides, new bishops to be appointed to lead these.

St. Paul was converted when God called him on that fateful day when he was on his way to Damascus. God revealed His truth to him, and after having heard the truth and realising how wrong he was, St. Paul made that dramatic turnaround and from one of the greatest enemies of the Lord and His faithful people, he then became one of the Church and the Faith’s greatest champion and defender.

There is something that all of us can learn from this, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we did not choose to become servants of the Lord, but rather, He chose us and made us worthy. The Apostles, saints and many martyrs were ordinary men and women just like us, but they changed their ways of life and followed the Lord with conviction and commitment.

God transformed the holy Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, from their humble and even sinful origins, to become His greatest tools, as His greatest servants in bringing the souls of many of His beloved ones closer to Him and allowing many through them to listen to the truth about His salvation. The same call is now therefore made upon us as well. Each and every one of us as Christians have been called to serve the Lord, and to evangelise and preach the Good News of God to all.

And this is related to our celebration today, remembering the moment when the two great Basilicas dedicated to these two Apostles were consecrated and dedicated, made holy and had incense and the holy oils applied to it and the Altar within the Basilicas, and through the blessing of the Almighty God, these two great edifices became more than just a space, but rather they become a place worthy to house the Holy Presence of God.

Before a church, be it a small parish church, a large church, an important one such as Cathedrals and Basilicas, none of these can be used for the purpose of the celebration of the Holy Mass if they have not been consecrated and dedicated yet. And as I have mentioned in my homily for the Dedication of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran just two weeks earlier, this has implication and relevance for us that we all should know and understand.

Undedicated and unconsecrated, the great Basilicas and cathedrals are just mere buildings, spaces with architecture without meaning. Through the consecration, it has been made into a worthy and holy Residence and House of God. In the same manner, through our own baptism, through the dwelling of the Holy Spirit by our confirmation, and through the reception of the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord in the Eucharist, each and every one of us, our bodies, minds, hearts and souls have been consecrated and dedicated to the Lord to be His holy Temples, where He shall dwell in us.

We are the Temple and the House of God, for God Himself has dwelled inside us, inside our mortal bodies and existence. And as a result, we should make sure that we live in accordance to the way of the Lord, obeying His laws and precepts, or else we would defile the sanctity of this Temple and House of God. God has transformed our humble and simple bodies and beings into His glorious residence, as much as those magnificent buildings and edifices has been transformed into the great places of worship.

Let us all therefore spend some time to reflect on this, thinking carefully of what each and every one of us should be doing in our respective lives. We should imitate the examples of the saints in their dedication and commitment, and follow the examples set by the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul. Do not be discouraged if we think that our faith is easily shaken and weak, for the Apostles themselves were once filled with doubt as well.

Let us all open ourselves, heart, mind, body and soul, that God may come into each and every one of us, transforming us completely from being creatures of the flesh and darkness, into creatures of the light, into sons and daughters of our Lord, worthy of the eternal life He has promised to all of His faithful ones. St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us sinners, that we may be like you and follow in your footsteps. Amen.

Friday, 18 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter the Apostle and the Papal Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)
Luke 19 : 45-48

At that time, Jesus entered the Temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And He said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!'”

Jesus was teaching every day in the Temple. The chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted to kill Him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to Him and hanging on His words.

Alternative reading (in Mass for 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 walking 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!”

Friday, 18 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter the Apostle and the Papal Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)
Psalm 118 : 14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.

Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

Your law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

How sweet are Your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.

I gasp in ardent yearning for Your commandments that I love.

Alternative reading (in Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)
Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

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

The Lord 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 the Lord, 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, the Lord!