Sunday, June 29, 2014

Homily for today's mass

Welcome my brothers and sisters in Jesus to today's celebration of the Feast of Peter and Paul, the Apostles of Christ. Saints Peter and Paul are probably the most known of all the saints in the Catholic Church. What makes them so famous is that both of them were chosen by Jesus in a very special way for the building of the Mystical Body of Christ.

The mission of Saint Peter was twofold. First of all, he was chosen by Jesus to lead the Catholic Church in the early stage of its foundation after the Lord had departed from earth. To Peter was given the keys to the Kingdom of God. Saint Peter was the first Pope, he having been personally chosen by Our Lord Jesus.

Secondly, Saint Peter was chosen to lead most of the Jewish people into the new Covenant of grace, especially those who accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah.

Saint Paul, not originally a member of the twelve apostles that were chosen by Jesus, came into the picture a little later. When St Peter was instituting the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Saint Paul was persecuting the early Church christians. Faithful to Yahweh the true God, Paul had not perceived that in Jesus the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the Blood of His Cross. [Col. 1:19-20, 2:9]

The conversion of Paul, known then as Saul, came when he was approaching Damascus. A light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground off his horse and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" [Acts 9:3-4]

While St. Peter had been chosen to bring most of the Jewish people into the Body of Christ as stated before, St. Paul was chosen as God's instrument to bring the Name of the Lord before the Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel. [Acts 9:15] As Biblical history teaches us, St. Paul played a major role in the early days of the Church in bringing a great number of the gentiles into the Catholic Church. In a manner of speaking, St. Paul can be viewed as the spiritual father of all of us who would be considered as Gentiles, we not being members of the Jewish nation. If there are members of the Church here today who are of Jewish ancestry, St. Peter would be considered their spiritual father.

During the institution of the Catholic Church, the Lord Jesus employed spectacular supernatural manifestations to clearly show to the believers and the doubters that He was still with His followers and that they were fulfilling the Divine Will of God. One such spectacular manifestation was the delivery of Peter from the prison. As we heard earlier during the First Reading, [Acts 12:1- 11] the angel of the Lord appeared to St. Peter, removed the chains from him and guided him outside of the prison.

While such a spectacular manifestation appeared to be a dream, when St. Peter realized that it was not a dream, that he was truly free from his captor, he affirmed, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod." [Acts 12:11] What an experience this must have been!

Now miracles were not being manifested right and left, endlessly. As we heard during the First Reading, James, the brother of John, the son of Zebedee, was not freed from his captor. He was killed by the sword. We cannot pretend to be able to know as to why the Lord Jesus permitted one of the twelve to be freed while the other one was permitted to die. Maybe the martyrdom of St. James was to affirm to the new converts that by embracing the Catholic faith, they had to be ready to die for it.

Today's Second Reading from the Second Letter to Timothy [2 Tim. 4:6-8, 17-18] affirms the importance of persevering in one's living faith. St. Paul claimed to have fought a good fight, to have held on to his faith until the end. Consequently, he affirmed that there was reserved for him in Heaven the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give on that day to those who have longed for His appearing.

St. Paul further proclaimed that the Lord stood by him and gave him strength so that through him, the message, the Good News of the Gospel, may be fully proclaimed to the Gentiles. To secure Paul's mission, the Lord rescued him from the lion's mouth and every evil attack that became obstacles to the Divine Will.

From this passage of the Scripture, we learn that those of us who persevere in our baptismal and confirmation calling to go forth and preach the Gospel, the Lord will be with us. He will give us strength so that through Him, we may achieve the mission for which we have been called. And as St. Paul was rescued from many obstacles, the Lord will preserve from evil attacks all those who persevere in His service in obedience and in humility.

Church history tells us that the Lord has stood by His saints, protecting them against obstacles. Over and above this, Jesus has performed many great miracles as a sign to the faithful that His Divine power was being manifested through the loyal saints who persevered in their living faith... even to this age. This is a sign to all of us that Jesus is not a God of the past, but a God of the ongoing present. He is a God who is reaching out to us, calling us to serve Him so that we may shine as lights in the world. To us, weak human beings, not angels, but human beings, the Lord has given His Spirit to guide us and teach us according to the progressive needs of the Catholic Church for its spiritual growth and enrichment.

None of the saints became saints overnight. And the Lord Jesus does not expect us to become saints overnight. Sainthood is progressive. The more we persevere in the service of the Lord, the more He rewards us by manifesting His power through us so that we may draw others to the Lord Jesus.

Today's Gospel Reading [Mt. 16:13-19] reminds us that we are on the right track. It is to Peter that Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven, that whatever he, as the Pope and successor of Christ on earth, binds on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever he looses on earth will be loosed in heaven.

In the Catholic Church is found the fullness of salvation. In the Catholic Church is found the Sacraments that are absolutely necessary for our salvation, namely the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, and the Holy Eucharist. These divinely commissioned Sacraments maintain our righteousness before God as our assurance of salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, if you have not done so as of yet, now is the day to start answering your call to preach and defend the Gospel of Christ according to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Today is the day, not tomorrow, for tomorrow may be too late. Today is the day to start preaching the Word of God to your spouse, your children, your parents, your brothers and sisters, your friends, your co-worker, to all those with who you come in contact to ensure that you will not neglect your calling by allowing an opportunity to pass without spiritual results.

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