June 29, every year the Church celebrates the great Feast of Saints Peter & Paul. As a sign of the significance of this feast, every year on this date, the Holy Father invites to Rome all the newly created Archbishops from the previous year to receive their pallium, which is a sign of their unity, thus the entire Church’s unity, with the successor of Peter.
While the Church is certainly capable of great solemnity, and a Mass with the Holy Father at St. Peter’s Basilica is one such moment, we must look very closely to see what is of such significance, and worthy of such celebration; namely Faith in Jesus Christ.
St. Peter’s Basilica is more than one of the largest churches in the world, it is primarily a monument to the faith of St. Peter – the faith of the Church – as it is built over the tomb of the man who professed his faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16)
Because of Peter’s faith, Jesus entrusted to him – and to all the Church – the ‘keys to the Kingdom of Heaven’ and promised that nothing would ever overtake his Church. (Matthew 16: 17 – 19)
Peter’s faith in Jesus Christ, and the commission given him by Jesus, is what led Peter to Rome. Logically, one would think that the center of Catholicism would be in Jerusalem or the Holy Land, where Christ lived, suffered, died and rose from the dead. Instead, it has, as Jesus said, been built upon the Faith of Peter and the Apostles.
Today we celebrate the witness of Saints Peter and Paul, who in Rome, gave their lives as the ultimate testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. Another significant and beautiful monument (St. Paul Outside the Walls) is built over the burial place of St. Paul, near the place where he was martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ.
Recall the words of St. Peter who said to Jesus:
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we believe and we are convinced that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” (John 6: 68-69)
Similarly, St. Paul expressed his faith in Jesus in many beautiful ways in his numerous letters, but perhaps no more concisely than this:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2: 19-20)
The faith of Peter and the great commission given him by Christ remains at work in the Church today, and has continued unbroken through every successor to Peter, down to our day in our Holy Father, Pope Francis.
As Saints Peter and Paul did such wonder, beautiful and powerful things through their faith in Jesus Christ, so for the 2,00o years since then have so many others. Because we are members of the Church, we profess the faith of these great Saints. Because we are members of the Church, the Lord desires to, and is capable of doing great, beautiful and wonderful things through each of us!
The basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul are beautiful, and are built upon the tombs of these Apostles. Yet, as beautiful as these churches are, what each of these saints accomplished by faith in Jesus is even more beautiful, and where we direct our attention today.
My friends, faith in Jesus Christ is powerful. Through the intercessions of Saints Peter and Paul, may each of us live our faith with even greater confidence and freedom. May the Lord continue to build his Church upon the faith of believers today. May the Lord continue to do wonderful, beautiful and powerful things through you and your faith!
I leave you with my favorite modern day photo of ‘Peter and Paul’ taken at last year’s Pallium Mass at St. Peter’s.