Three words that Pope Francis says are “essential for the life of an apostle” are confession, persecution and prayer.
Pope Francis stressed this to the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica to celebrate the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul this morning. He presided over the Mass, at which was present the Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The Holy Father also invested the pallium on 36 Metropolitan archbishops. The pallium, a woolen cloak that is a sign of their office, is made from the wool of lambs blessed by the Pope on the Feast of St. Agnes.
In his homily, the Holy Father reflected on today’s readings, and explained what three characteristics are necessary for Apostles.
To confess the faith, the Pope said means acknowledging that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, the living God, the Lord of our lives.
Today, the Pope said, Jesus puts this crucial question to each of us, and particularly to those of us who are pastors. It is the decisive question, he said, adding, “It does not allow for a non-committal answer, because it brings into play our entire life. The question of life demands a response of life. For it counts little to know the articles of faith if we do not confess Jesus as the Lord of our lives.”
“Today he looks straight at us and asks, ‘Who am I for you?’ As if to say: ‘Am I still the Lord of your life, the longing of your heart, the reason for your hope, the source of your unfailing trust?'”
“Along with Saint Peter,” he said, “we too renew today our life choice to be Jesus’ disciples and apostles.” He prayed that all may recognize not just in words, but with actions and lives.
Peter and Paul, the Pope reminded, shed their blood for Christ, but the early community as a whole also experienced persecution, as the Book of Acts has reminded us. “Today too, in various parts of the world, sometimes in silence – often a complicit silence –,” he said, “great numbers of Christians are marginalized, vilified, discriminated against, subjected to violence and even death, not infrequently without due intervention on the part of those who could defend their sacrosanct rights.”
To live, for the Apostle Paul, was Christ, the Pope said, noting as a faithful disciple, he followed the Master and offered his own life, too.
“Apart from the cross, there is no Christ, but apart from the cross, there can be no Christian either.”
Tolerating evil, the Pope went on to say, means overcoming it with Jesus, and in Jesus’ own way, which is not the way of the world. This is why Paul, writes to Timothy: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith ((cf. 2 Tim 4:8).’
“The essence of his ‘good fight’ was ‘living for,’ the Pope said. “He lived not for himself, but for Jesus and for others. He spent his life “running the race”, not holding back but giving his all. He tells us that there is only one thing that he “kept”: not his health, but his faith, his confession of Christ.”
“Out of love, he experienced trials, humiliations and suffering, which are never to be sought but always accepted. In the mystery of suffering offered up in love, in this mystery, embodied in our own day by so many of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, impoverished and infirm, the saving power of Jesus’ cross shines forth.”
The life of an apostle, the Pope said, is one of constant prayer.
“Prayer is the water needed to nurture hope and increase fidelity. Prayer makes us feel loved and it enables us to love in turn. It makes us press forward in moments of darkness because it brings God’s light. In the Church, it is prayer that sustains us and helps us to overcome difficulties.”
“A Church that prays,” he said, “is watched over and cared for by the Lord. When we pray, we entrust our lives to him and to his loving care. Prayer is the power and strength that unite and sustain us, the remedy for the isolation and self-sufficiency that lead to spiritual death.”
Unless we pray, he said, the Spirit of life does not breathe and “the interior prisons that hold us captive cannot be unlocked.”
Noting the Lord answers our prayers, he stressed, “May the blessed Apostles obtain for us a heart like theirs, How urgent it is for the Church to have teachers of prayer, but even more so for us to be men and women of prayer, whose entire life is prayer!”
Pope Francis concluded, reminding them the Lord answers our prayers and praying He will accompany our journey like He did for that of the Apostles.
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full Text of Pope’s Homily: https://zenit.org/articles/pope-francis-homily-for-the-feast-of-saints-peter-and-paul-3/