This is the English translation of the homily given by Pope Francis on Sunday June 29th, at St. Peter’s Square, prior to the recitation of the Angelus. The Catholic Church commemorated the Solemnity of St. Peter And St Paul.
Precious Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
From the earliest times the Church of Rome has recognized the Apostles Peter and Paul in a single feast on the very same day, 29 June. Faith in Jesus Christ made them brothers and their martyrdom has made them one. St Peter and St Paul, so different from each other on a human level, were personally chosen by the Lord Jesus and they answered the call by giving their entire lives. In both their lives the grace of Christ achieved wonderful things, it transformed them. It transformed them, and how! Simon refuted Jesus in a dramatic minute of the Passion; Saul harshly persecuted the Christians. However they both welcomed God’s love and allowed themselves to be transformed by his mercy; they thus became friends and apostles of Christ. This is why they continue to speak to the Church and still today they show us the way to salvation. And should we perchance, fall into the most serious sins and the darkest of nights, God is always capable of transforming us too, the way he changed Peter and Paul; transforming the heart and forgiving us for everything, thus changing the darkness of our sin into a dawn of light. God is like this: he transforms us, he constantly forgives us, as he did with Peter and as he did with Paul.
The Book of the Acts of the Apostles shows many aspects of their testimonies. Peter, for instance, teaches us to watch over the poor with the eyes of faith and to offer them the most priceless thing we have: the power of Jesus’ name. He did this with that paralyzed man: he provided him all he had, that is, Jesus (cf. Acts 3:4 -6).
Three times the episode is told of Paul’s call on the road to Damascus, which signals the turning point in his life, clearly marking a before and an after. Before, Paul was a bitter enemy of the Church. Afterwards, he placed his whole life at the service of the Gospel. Also for us, the encounter with the Word of Christ can completely changing our life. It is impossible to hear this Word and remain unmoved, continue to be stuck in our old habits. It pushes us to get rid of the selfishness in our hearts to resolutely follow that Teacher who offered his life for his friends. But it is He who with his word changes us; it is He who transforms us; it is He who forgives us everything, if we open our heart and ask for mercy.
Dear brothers and sisters, this feast engenders great joy in us, due to the fact that it places us before the work of God’s grace in the hearts of two men. It is the work of God’s mercy in these two men who were great sinners. God wishes to fill us too with his grace, as he did with Peter and Paul.
May the Virgin Mary help us to receive his grace like they did, with open hearts, and not to receive it in vain! May she support us in times of trial, to attest to Jesus Christ and to his Gospel. We ask this specifically today for the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed this year, who commemorated the Eucharist with me today in St Peter’s. Let us greet them all warmly together with their faithful and relatives and let us pray for them!