Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul – …« But you, who do you say I am? » (Mt 16:15)

Readings:

  • First reading: Acts 12:1-11
  • Psalm 33 – From all my terrors the Lord set me free
  • Second reading: 2Tm 4:6-8.17-18
  • Gospel: Mt 16:13-19

…« But you, who do you say I am? » (Mt 16:15)

Today we celebrate two great apostles: St. Peter and St. Paul.

Peter, a fisherman, was called by Jesus on the shore of the lake of Galilee to be “fisher of people” (Cfr. Mt 4:19). He follows the Master with a wholehearted commitment, leaving everything behind, because he recognises that Jesus alone has “words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).

Peter is also the one to whom the Holy Spirit suggests the true identity of Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).

Ready to give his life for the Lord, he unexpectedly finds himself weak: when his own life is threatened, he denies to know Jesus, his Master and friend. However, this bitter experience of failure becomes the turning point of his discipleship: the risen Lord forgives him and entrusts to him the God’s “flock” (Cfr. Jn: 21:15-17).

Peter is appointed by Jesus as the head of the Church: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18), “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:19). Peter was the first Pope of the Church and during the centuries, all the Popes that succeeded him are linked to him by what is called Apostolic Succession.

St. Paul, instead, is initially depicted in the Scriptures as a zealous Jew. He was persecuting the early Christian community, when he had a personal encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). His life is turned upside-down as he realises that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the One the Jewish people was waiting and longing for. He is also led from blindness to the true Light by the Church of Damascus.

The most amazing is that, as he was a zealous Jew, so he is now a fervent preacher of the Good News to Hebrews and Gentiles alike. “The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear” (2 Tm 4:17).

Today’s reading from the Gospel (Mt 16: 13-19) is well known as Peter’s profession of faith.

It draws our attention on how the apostle’s heart should be: what does really make a disciple dedicate his life to Jesus? Why does an apostle devote his life to the preaching of the Gospel?

The Lord asks to his disciples: “But you, who do you say I am?”.

He asks me too: who do you say I am?

This is not just what I know or I learnt about Him, but what experience I had of Him in my life. Who is He to me? How did He reveal himself to me?

My life will be committed to Christ in the measure that I realise who He is, how much He loves me and how He gave himself for me.

Who are You to me?

Who am I to You?

 

Almighty, ever-living God,
you give us the great joy of devoting this day
to the honour of the apostles Peter and Paul.
Grant that your Church
may follow their teaching to the full,
because these are the men
who first taught us to worship you in Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

… “I am the living bread” (Jn 6:51)

 

In the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ we celebrate one of the greatest mysteries of our faith: our Lord’s living presence in the Eucharistic species. His Body and Blood, together with his Soul and Divinity: “the whole of Christ’s truly, really and substantially contained in that bread and wine” (Council of Trent, DS).

 

Our Lord promised He would have remained with us every day: “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Mt 28:20).

During the last supper, when the first holy Eucharist took place, He also left us these words: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” and “this cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you” (Lk 22:19-20).

 

We believe that, during the Mass, the whole substance of the bread and wine is transformed into the Body and Blood of our Saviour through his own words, which are uttered by the priest. The priest pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God’s.

Saint Ambrose says: “Could not Christ’s word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before?”, so “the power of blessing prevails over the power of nature”.

 

Therefore, dear friends, when we feel it hard to recognise Jesus’ divine presence in the Holy Eucharist, we need to put aside our senses and rely on faith: this mystery “cannot be apprehended by the senses, but only by faith, which relies on divine authority” (saint Thomas). God’s authority is trustworthy, and we believe that He is the Truth, that He cannot lie!

 

I sometimes think: what a strange way God chose to remain among us! Why bread and wine?

Then I find myself pretending to be wiser than God…! No man can never be as wise as the Creator of all things!

However, there is one thing that helps me to understand this mystery. When I consider Christ’s sacrifice, I realise that as Jesus so willingly suffered in his body such terrible pains and death, in the same way He is also taken, broken, given, even chewed in the Holy Eucharist, for our salvation.

As He descended into death and rose again, He comes to the depth of our innermost self, to those corners of our soul that are still in the shadow of sin and death, to bring light, life, love and salvation.

Such a god is our God, indescribably meek and humble!

 

“I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51)

“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him” (Jn 6:56).

“Remain in me, as I in you. Remain in my love” (Jn 15: 4.9)

 

Let us firmly believe in our Saviour’s words, which are full of love and really come true, and let us adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament, the sweet Sacrament divine.

 

Lord Jesus Christ,
You gave us the eucharist
as the memorial of your suffering and death.
May our worship of this sacrament of your body and blood
help us to experience the salvation you won for us
and the peace of the kingdom
where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen