The Universal Church celebrated the Solemnity of Saints Peter & Paul on 29 June 2014.
The Readings that were read in the Eucharistic Celebrations all over the world on the Solemnity are shown in the previous page:
First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 12:1-11;
Responsorial: Responsorial: Psalm 34:2-9;
Second Reading: 2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18 &
Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:13-19 .
We have extracted the Homilies of Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI & Pope Francis I based on the aforesaid Readings to share with you, so that you could similarly be encouraged:
SOLEMNITY OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
HOMILY OF POPE JOHN PAUL II
Sunday, 29 June 1997
1. “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18).
On today’s Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the Liturgy of the Word presents two elements which seem to contradict one another but are actually complementary. On the one hand, we have the extraordinary vocation of the Apostles Peter and Paul and, on the other, the difficulties they had to face in fulfilling the mission they received from the Lord.
In the Gospel passage Jesus says to Simon Peter near Caesarea Philippi: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Thus Christ foretold the institution of the Church and founded her on Peter's ministry, which consequently has an essential and enduring significance for her.
When Jesus asked who people thought the Son of God was, the Apostles reported several of the opinions current among the Jews. But when he asked them directly: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15), Peter replied in the name of the Twelve: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Peter made his profession of faith in Christ and this faith constitutes the firm foundation of the People of the New Covenant. The Church is not primarily a social structure; she is the community of those who share the same faith as Peter and the Apostles: the community of those who proclaim the one apostolic faith. This common profession of faith is the real raison d’être of the Church herself as a visible institution: it motivates and sustains every project and initiative.
2. Let us listen once again to these words of Jesus on the day when we recall with veneration the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. The Fathers loved to compare them to two pillars supporting the Church as a visible construction. According to ancient tradition, the liturgy celebrates them together, commemorating their glorious martyrdom on the same day: Peter, whose tomb is on this Vatican Hill, and Paul, whose tomb is venerated in the vicinity of the Ostian Way. They both sealed with their blood the witness they bore to Christ by their preaching and ecclesial ministry.
Today’s liturgy clearly emphasizes this witness and gives us a glimpse of the profound reason why it was necessary for the faith professed by the lips of the two Apostles to be also crowned with the supreme test of martyrdom.
3. This reason can be seen in the passage from the Acts of the Apostles proclaimed just now, as well as in the responsorial Psalm and the text from the Letter to Timothy, and it is presented to us in summary form in the response of the responsorial Psalm: “The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him” (Psalm 34 :7).
The first reading recalls Peter’s miraculous release from the prison in Jerusalem, where he had been held by King Herod. In the second reading, Paul, as if summarizing his entire apostolic and missionary activity, says: “I was rescued from the lion’s mouth” (2 Timothy 4:17). Both testimonies show, in a certain sense, the common journey travelled by the two Apostles. Both were sent by Christ to proclaim the Gospel in an environment hostile to the work of salvation. Peter had already experienced this resistance in Jerusalem, where Herod, to win the favour of the Jews, had thrown him into prison, intending “to bring him out to the people” (Acts 12:4). But he was miraculously saved from Herod’s hands, and thus he could complete his evangelizing mission, first in Jerusalem and later in Rome, putting all his energy at the service of the new-born Church.
Paul too, sent by the risen Christ to many pagan cities and peoples in the Roman Empire, encountered strong resistance from his compatriots and from the civil authorities. His Letters are a splendid testimony to these difficulties and to the great struggle he had to endure for the Gospel cause.
At the end of his mission, he could write: “My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6-7).
Peter and Paul, each with his own personal and ecclesial experience, testify that the Lord never abandoned them, even amid the harshest trials. He was with Peter to deliver him from the hands of his opponents in Jerusalem; he was with Paul in his constant apostolic labours to communicate to him the strength of his grace, to make him a fearless proclaimer of the Gospel for the benefit of the nations (cf. 2 Timothy 4:17).
4. The Church is called to deepen her own link with the witness of the Apostles Peter and Paul. In celebrating today’s liturgical solemnity, the Christian communities of the whole world strengthen their bonds of unity based on profession of the same faith in Christ and on fraternal charity. The rite for the conferral of the sacred pallium on the new Metropolitan Archbishops from various countries by the Successor of Peter is an eloquent sign of this ecclesial communion.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate! I am pleased to welcome you to this solemn celebration, during which you will receive the pallium as a sign of unity with the See of Peter and of sharing in the mission, entrusted by Christ to the Apostles and to their successors, of proclaiming the Gospel to all peoples. Together with you, I would like to greet and affectionately embrace the ecclesial communities entrusted to your care, asking the Lord for an abundance of the Spirit's gifts for your faithful.
5. If the witness of faith and the arduous struggle which the Apostles Peter and Paul had to undertake for the cause of the Gospel are considered in merely human terms, they ended in defeat. In this too they faithfully followed Christ’s example. Indeed, humanly speaking the mission of Christ, who was condemned to death and crucified, ended in defeat.
However, both the Apostles, with their gaze fixed on the paschal mystery, did not doubt that precisely what to the eyes of the world seemed a defeat, was in fact the beginning of the fulfilment of God’s plan. It was the victory over the forces of evil won first by Christ and then by his disciples through faith. The entire community of believers relies on the firm foundation of the apostolic faith and gives thanks to Christ for the solid rock on which its life and mission are built.
May the Lord, who today gladdens us with the glorious memory of the Apostles Peter and Paul, enable us to listen to their teaching with a docile heart, preserve it with devotion and transmit it with fidelity, so that the Gospel message may reach to the ends of the earth.
HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II
Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul
1. The solemn memorial of the Apostles Peter and Paul invites us once again to make a spiritual pilgrimage to the Upper Room in Jerusalem, on the day of Christ’s resurrection. The doors “being shut ... for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19), the Apostles present, already deeply troubled by the Teacher’s passion and death, were disturbed by the news of the empty tomb, which they had heard throughout the day. And suddenly, although the doors were closed, Jesus appeared: “Peace be to you!”, he said. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.... Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21-23).
He says this with a power that leaves no room for doubt. And the Apostles believe him because they recognize him: he is the same one they have known; the same one they had listened to; the same one who was crucified three days before on Golgotha and buried not far away. He is the same: he is alive. To assure them that it is really he, he shows them the wounds in his hands, feet and side. It is his wounds that are the chief proof of what he has just said and of the mission he is entrusting to them.
The disciples thus fully experience the identity of their Teacher and, at the same time, deeply understand the origin of the power to forgive sins, a power that belongs to God alone. Jesus once said to a paralyzed man: “Your sins are forgiven you”, and healed him as a sign of his own power, in front of the indignant Pharisees (cf. Luke 5:17-26). Now he returns to the Apostles after working the greatest miracle, his resurrection, in which the power to forgive sins is inscribed in a remarkably eloquent way. Yes, it is true! Only God can forgive sins, but God has wished to do this work through his crucified and risen Son, so that every man, as he receives the forgiveness of his sins, will clearly know that in this way he is passing from death to life.
2. If we pause to reflect on the Gospel passage just proclaimed, we return to an even earlier period in Christ’s life, to meditate on a highly significant episode that occurred near Caesarea Philippi, when he asked the disciples: “Who do men say that the Son of man is? ... Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-16). Simon Peter replies on behalf of them all: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). This confession of faith is followed by Jesus’ well-known words which were destined to mark the future of Peter and the Church for ever: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:17-19).
The power of the keys. The Apostle becomes the depositary of the keys to a priceless treasure: the treasure of redemption, a treasure which far transcends the temporal dimension. It is the treasure of divine life, of eternal life. After the resurrection it was definitively entrusted to Peter and the Apostles: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). Anyone with keys has the ability and the responsibility of closing and opening. Jesus enables Peter and the Apostles to dispense the grace of the forgiveness of sins and to open definitively the gates of the kingdom of heaven. After his death and resurrection, they well understand the task entrusted to them, and with this knowledge they address the world, spurred by the love of their Teacher. They go everywhere as his ambassadors (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-20), since the time of the kingdom has now become their inheritance.
3. Today the Church, especially the Church in Rome, is celebrating the memorial of Saints Peter and Paul. Rome, the heart of the Catholic community throughout the world; Rome, the place chosen by Providence for the definitive witness which these two Apostles would offer to Christ.
O Roma felix! In your long history the day of their martyrdom was certainly by far the most important. On that day, through the witness of Peter and Paul who died for love of Christ, God’s plans were inscribed in your rich historical patrimony. The Church, approaching the beginning of the third millennium — tertio millennio adveniente — does not cease to proclaim these plans to all humanity.
4. On this most solemn day, the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed during the past year have gathered in Rome in accordance with a significant tradition. They have come from various parts of the world to receive the sacred pallium from the Successor of Peter as a sign of communion with him and with the universal Church.
I welcome you with great joy, venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, and I embrace you in the Lord! I express my deep gratitude to each of you for your presence, which shows in a singular way three of the essential notes of the Church: that she is one, catholic and apostolic; as for her holiness, this shines brilliantly in the witness of her “pillars”, Peter and Paul.
In celebrating the Eucharist with you, I pray in a particular way for the ecclesial communities entrusted to your pastoral care: I invoke upon them an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that he may lead them, filled with faith, hope and love, to cross the threshold of the third Christian millennium.
5. The presence of my venerable Brothers of the Orthodox Church, delegates of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, is a particular joy and comfort as well. I warmly thank them for this renewed sign of homage to the memory of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and recall with deep feeling that three years ago His Holiness Bartholomew I wished to come to Rome to join me for this solemn event: at that time we had the joy of professing our faith together at the tomb of Peter and of blessing the faithful.
These are providential signs of reciprocal spiritual closeness, especially during this period of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000: all Christians, and especially their Pastors, are invited to perform acts of charity, which, with respect for the truth, show the Gospel commitment to full unity and, at the same time, promote it according to the will of the one Lord Jesus. Faith tells us that the ecumenical journey remains firmly in God’s hands, but calls for the thoughtful co-operation of men. Today we entrust its future to the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul, who shed their blood for the Church.
6. Jerusalem and Rome, the two poles in the life of Peter and Paul. The two poles of the Church, which today’s liturgy has recalled to us: from the Upper Room in Jerusalem to the “upper room” of this Vatican Basilica. The witness of Peter and Paul began in Jerusalem and ended in Rome. This was the will of divine Providence which had previously freed them several times from the threat of death but let them finish their race in Rome (cf. 2 Timothy 4:7) and receive here the crown of martyrdom.
Jerusalem and Rome are also the two poles of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, to which this celebration brings us closer with the inner zeal of faith. May the witness of the holy Apostles remind the whole People of God of the true meaning of this goal, which is certainly historical, but transcends history and transforms it with the spiritual dynamism of God’s kingdom.
In this perspective, the Church makes her own the words of the Apostle to the Gentiles: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18).
13 July 2014