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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Feast of the St. Apostles Peter and Paul, martyrs in Rome around the years 60-70.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If we die with him, we shall live with him,
if with him we endure, with him we shall reign.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 16, 13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of man is?'

And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'

'But you,' he said, 'who do you say I am?'

Then Simon Peter spoke up and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'

Jesus replied, 'Simon son of Jonah, you are a blessed man! Because it was no human agency that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.

So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If we die with him, we shall live with him,
if with him we endure, with him we shall reign.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Today we celebrate the feast of the apostles, Saints Peter and Paul, whose memory accompanies the nearly two thousand-year history of the Church. Tradition holds that Peter and Paul died as martyrs on the same day, June 29th, in the year 67 or 68. One was crucified on Vatican Hill, perhaps near the place where the church of Saint Peter in Montorio stands today, and the other was beheaded in Via Ostiense. Both are called the columns of the Church, in particularly of the Roman Church, which not only venerates them as saints, but also as the foundation of its spiritual edifice. The ancient Christian writer Tertullian records that Peter and Paul gave their teachings to Rome along with their blood. Therefore, along with the Oriental Church, which celebrates this feast immediately after Christmas, we can sing, "Praise be to Peter and Paul, these two magnificent lights of the Church; they shine in the firmament of faith." They shine not only in the heavens above Rome, but also in the hearts of those believers who preserve their teachings in their hearts and cherish the precious witness of their faith lived out to the point of shedding their blood. The Church of Rome is founded on the faith of these two martyrs, and it is in this faith that our poor, fragile, and weak faith as Christians in this last hour is rooted. Their image is before us so that we may remember their example according to what is written in the Letter to the Hebrews: "In your struggle against sin you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (12:4). Indeed, Peter and Paul resisted to the point of shedding their blood.
They return to us today and again preach with their words and their very lives. Matthew writes that the Lord called the twelve disciples and sent them out two by two. In this way, two of them, Peter and Paul, were sent all the way to Rome, from far away Palestine, to preach the Gospel. They were two men who were very different from each other: the first "a humble fisherman from Galilee" and the second "a teacher and doctor of the Law," as we sang today in the preface to the holy liturgy. Even their lives as believers were different. Jesus called Peter while he was mending his nets along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He was a simple fisherman who worked honestly and hard. However, his soul was restless and his life always seemed to be the same, and so he felt a desire for a new world where charity was not rare and indifference and enmity were vanquished. As soon as the young teacher from Nazareth called him to a greater life and to fish for people, not fish, "immediately he left his net and followed him." We find him among the Twelve, with a temperament typical of a fiery and self-assured man, and yet it only took a servant woman to lead him to betrayal. The true Peter is the one who is weak, who lets the Spirit of God touch him, and who is the first to proclaim, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God," (Mt 16:16) as we heard in the Gospel. The Lord made of Peter’s weakness the "rock" that would confirm his brothers and sisters.
We see Paul as a young man standing near those who are stoning Stephen. He was standing guard over the cloaks of those who were casting the stones. He was a zealous combatant against the young Christian community and was even authorized to persecute it outside Jerusalem. But on the road to Damascus, the Lord threw him down from the horse of self-assuredness and pride, which was more stubborn than the horse he was riding. Finding himself face down in the dust, he looked up to heaven and saw the Lord. This time, like Peter after his betrayal, Paul felt his heart touched. Tears did not flow from his eyes, but they were blinded and he was no longer able to see. Once he was used to leading others, and now he had to be taken by the hand and led to Damascus. There, the Gospel preached by Ananias opened his heart and his eyes. Paul preached, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, and he founded many communities. In order to carry out his mission, he did not even shrink from opposing Peter. "But the Lord stood by me," Paul writes to Timothy, "and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom" (2 Tim 4:17-18).
Since the beginning, the Church has wanted to remember both of them together, as if to hold both of their testimonies together in unity. With their different gifts and charisms, both founded one Church of Christ. Their characteristics, in a certain way, are a part of the faith and life of the Church and, I would like to say, of our faith. We cannot be Christians in a flat, identical way. Our faith ought to breathe with the spirit of these two witnesses, with the humble and steadfast faith of Peter and with the out-stretched, universal heart of Paul. Every believer and every Church ought to live not for itself, but for the Gospel, and, if anything, this obligation is even stronger for the Church in Rome and for all of its members. Today, the apostles Peter and Paul return to sit among us and to exhort us not to close in on ourselves, not to think exclusively of our problems, even if they are religious ones, but to feel the urgency of confirming the faith of our brothers and sisters and going out to announce the Gospel to those who have yet to receive it.

Memory of the Apostles

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 26 March
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 27 March
Memory of the Poor
Tuesday, 28 March
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 29 March
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 30 March
Memory of the Church
Friday, 31 March
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 1 April
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 2 April
Liturgy of the Sunday