My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Today’s solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, apostles, reminds us of how the Church was born. Jesus is the founder of his Church, but he builds his Church on the foundation of St. Peter and the witness of St. Paul. So it is a day of special joy for the universal Church, as we celebrate this beautiful solemnity.
This morning, in Rome, our holy Father Pope Francis gave the pallium to the new archbishops. There was one archbishop from the United States, but there were archbishops from all over the world.
So, as we say we are Roman Catholics and that’s because St. Peter and St. Paul brought the Christian faith to Rome — which at that time was the capital of the whole world. And as we all know, they were both killed there. St. Peter was crucified and St. Paul was executed.
But their blood was the seed for God’s Church to grow and to spread from Rome to the ends of the earth. And here we are.
So today, we give thanks to St. Peter and St. Paul, but also to all the Christians who have gone before us, who lived the faith and kept the faith so that we could have the chance to know Jesus Christ. We also give thanks to God today for the gift of his Church.
As we just heard in our Gospel reading today, St. Peter is “the rock” of the Church.
Jesus builds his Church on the rock of St. Peter’s faith. God gave St. Peter the grace to know the truth. God allowed him to see and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, as we heard in today’s passage of the Gospel
This is, my brothers and sisters, the great faith of the Church, the great truth of our religion. We believe that Jesus is more than a man, more than a great prophet. He is the Son of God.
The Church testifies, just as St. Peter did — that when we see Jesus, we are looking at the face of the living God, the face of our Savior.
And this is the whole reason that Jesus established his Church. So that the world would always be able to have this encounter with Jesus, the Son of the living God. The Church exists to keep sharing this good news — in every country, every time and place. This good news that God is with us, that God comes to save us.
So, as we heard this morning in this Gospel reading — Jesus gives St. Peter the keys of the Kingdom of heaven. The Church is still proclaiming Christ, every day. The Church is still opening up the gates of heaven, still bringing people to that encounter with Jesus Christ, that changes everything in our lives.
As Pope Francis reminded us last week, no one becomes Christian on their own. No one comes to Jesus on their own. We come to Jesus because introduces us to him.
Pope Francis was talking this last week about how he remembers a specific religious sister who taught him the basics of the Catechism. We all have that kind of experience, maybe we came to the Church when we were still little babies and our parents were bringing us to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. That’s the way it was for me, and probably that’s the way it was for most of you. But there are many others that receive this gift later in life — the gift of the Sacrament of Baptism, that encounter with Jesus.
Every year, as we know, in the county of Los Angeles, we have thousands adults attending the RCIA program, and receiving the Sacraments of Christian initiation.
Nobody becomes Christian on his own because, my brothers and sisters, that is the mission of the Church — to bring people to Jesus. To bring people into contact with his mercy and love. That’s our mission as Christians.
So we belong to this Church that Jesus established on earth to continue his mission. Our lives are built on the “rock” of St. Peter and the proclamation of St. Paul.
We just heard that beautiful testimony of St. Paul’s in today’s second reading.
The Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
Especially beautiful this reading is because it is written as St. Paul is thinking about his death, about his martyrdom. He was writing that thinking about the end of his life. And as I said before, both St. Peter and St. Paul died as martyrs for their faith. So it is beautiful to hear about how St. Paul is thinking about the help, the strength that he received from God to preach the Gospels. And that’s the same grace and strength that we receive to be able to go out and share with people to beauty of the Gospel.
So the Church’s mission is not just for the 12 apostles or for some special people or for priests and bishops. It is for all of us! We are part of that mission of the Church, that’s who we are, men and women of faith who want to continue the mission of Jesus Christ.
I’m sure you noticed in our first reading today that the Church was praying for St. Peter. It’s a beautiful passage of the Acts of the Apostles, when we hear about St. Peter being in prison and how an angel came and freed him.
But what was important was that the whole time he was in jail, the members of the Church were praying for him: Prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God on his behalf, the Acts of the Apostles say.
So the Church was deeply involved in the mission of the apostles. Ordinary believers, people like each one of us, were entrusted with this mission of prayer, and sharing the Gospel, as the disciples were. And we are too.
We are brothers and sisters in the Church. We pray together and we mission together. And as the Apostolic Church was praying for St. Peter who was suffering persecution, it would be good today if we also prayed for all of those Christians who are suffering all over the world. So many people that suffer just by the fact that they are Christians.
So today is a beautiful day as we give thanks to God for St. Peter and St. Paul and for the Church, to ask for that grace to be apostles of Jesus Christ. To see the importance of all of us in the Church and the urgency of being missionary disciples.
We belong together, we belong to the same family of God. We share this same faith in Jesus and this same mission — to tell others about him. To be a blessing to others, to spread the blessings of God’s love and mercy to the whole world. The same mission that the apostles had.
So let us pray today for the grace and courage to follow Jesus as the apostles did. Let’s pray for the Church, the universal Church and the Church in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Let us pray for Pope Francis. And let us especially pray for the grace to be missionary disciples.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary, who is the Mother of the Church, to help us to follow in the footsteps of St. Peter and St. Paul. So the whole world will know that the mercy of God is real, that the gates of heaven are open to all who believe, the grace to be missionary disciples.
1. Readings (Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul, Year A): Acts 12:1-11; Ps. 34:2-9; 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 17-18; Matt. 16:13-19.