Thursday, June 29, 2006

Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul

Pope Benedict's Homily highlights from Asia News Italy:

Benedict XVI dedicated his entire homily to the primacy of Peter and later,
the reflection for the Angelus too, focusing on three Gospel passages that draw
attention to him. At the end of the mass, in his words to the crowd gathered in
St Peter’s Square for the recital of the Angelus prayer, he recalled the
martyrdom of Peter and Paul, and after apologizing for the delay due to the
prolonged rite in the basilica, he said: “This is why the Bishop of Rome,
Successor to the apostle Peter, undertakes a specific ministry in the service of
the doctrinal and pastoral unity of the People of God scattered around the
world.”
During the mass, explaining the logic of the three Gospel passages,
he said they “tackle the same task, but the diversity of situations and imagery
used makes it clear for us what interested and interests the Lord.” The first
was the passage from Matthew in which “his specific task is conferred upon him
through three images: that of the rock that becomes the foundation or
cornerstone; that of the keys and of loosening and binding”. At this time,
continued the pope, “I do not intend to interpret once again these three images,
which the Church, throughout the centuries, has constantly explained anew;
rather, I would like to draw attention to the geographical and chronological
context of these words. The promise was made near the source of the Jordan, at
the border of Jewish land, on edge of the Pagan world. The moment in which the
promise was made marks a decisive turning point in the journey of Jesus: now the
Lord is walking toward Jerusalem, and for the first time, he tells his disciples
that this journey towards the Holy City is a journey to the Cross.” “Both things
go together and determine the inner place of the Primacy, in fact, of the church
in general: the Lord is continually on a journey towards the Cross, towards the
lowliness of the suffering and killed servant of God, but at the same time, he
is also headed for the vastness of the world, in which He goes before us as the
Risen Lord, so that the light of his word and the presence of his love may shine
in the world.”
“The Church – and Christ in it – still suffers today. In the
Church, Christ is relentlessly mocked and stricken over and again; there are
always efforts to push it out of the world. The small boat of the Church is
forever being buffeted by the wind of ideologies that penetrate it with their
waters, seemingly condemning it to sink. And yet, right in the suffering Church,
Christ is victorious. Notwithstanding everything, faith in Him is renewed in
strength again and again. Still today, the Lord commands the waters and reveals
himself as the Lord of the elements. He stays on his boat, the ship of the
Church. Thus even in the ministry of Peter is revealed on the one hand the
weakness of what comes from man, but together with the strength of God.”
The
second passage recalled by Benedict XVI was that from the Gospel of Luke which
is about the Last Supper, when “Jesus, straight after the institution of the
Sacrament, talked about the meaning of being disciples, the ‘ministry’, in the
new community: he said it was a commitment of service, the same as He himself,
who was among them as one who served. And then he turned to Peter. He said Satan
had demanded to sift the disciples like wheat.” Akin to the biblical narrative
of Job, “this is what happens to the disciples of Jesus – in all times.”
However, “Jesus continues: ‘I have prayed for you that your own faith may not
fail’ (Lk 22:32). The prayer of Jesus is the limit posed on the power of evil.
The prayers of Jesus are the protection of the Church. We can seek refuge under
this protection, cling to it and be sure of it. But, as the Gospel tells us,
Jesus prayed especially for Peter: ‘that your faith may not fail’. There it is:
don’t ever allow this faith to become dumb, always reinvigorate it again, even
in the face of the cross and all the contradictions of the world – this is the
task of Peter. This is precisely why the Lord does not only pray for the
personal faith of Peter but for his faith in the service of others. This is what
He means when He says: ‘and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your
brothers’ (Lk22:32).”
“The Lord entrusts to Peter the responsibility for his
brothers through the promise of his prayer.”
The third reference to the
Primacy that Benedict XVI referred to was from the Gospel of John (21:15-19).
“The Lord rose and as the Risen Lord he entrusted his flock to Peter. Here too,
the Cross and the Resurrection are intertwined. In his words to Peter, Jesus
portends his journey towards the cross. In this Basilica, erected over the tomb
of Peter – a pauper’s grave – we see that the Lord, thus, through the Cross,
always triumphs. His power is not a power according to the rules of this world.
It is a power of goodness, of truth and love, which is stronger than death. Yes,
his promise is true: the power of death, the gates of hell will not prevail
against the Church He built for Peter (cfr Mt 16:18), and that He, precisely in
this way, continues to edify in person.”

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