You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church
“Wrap your mantle round you and follow me” (Acts 12,8).
This is how the angel spoke to Peter, detained in prison in Jerusalem. As the sacred text recounts, Peter “went out and followed him” (Acts 12,9).
With this extraordinary intervention God comes to the help of his Apostle so that he could continue on his mission. It was not an easy one and entailed a complicated and tiring route, that was to end with his martyrdom in Rome, where still today Peter’s tomb is the goal of unceasing pilgrimage from every part of the world.
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?... Arise, and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do” (Acts 9, 4-6).
Paul was struck down by divine grace on the road to Damascus and from being persecutor of Christians became the Apostle to the Gentiles. Having met the Lord on the road, he dedicated himself without reserve to the cause of the Gospel.
For Paul too, Rome the capital of the empire, was reserved as a distant goal, where, with Peter, he was to preach Christ, our only Lord and the Saviour of the world. For the faith he was also destined one day to pour out his blood here, so that his name would be linked forever to Peter’s in the history of Christian Rome.
Today the Church is joyfully celebrating the memory of both of them. The “Rock” and the “Chosen Instrument” definitively met each other here in Rome. Here they brought to completion their apostolic ministry, sealing it with the shedding of their blood.
The mysterious route of faith and love that led Peter and Paul from their native land to Jerusalem, then to other parts of the world, and finally to Rome, is a model of the journey that every Christian is called to accomplish to witness to Christ in the world.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps 33,5).
How can we fail to see in the experience of both the saints we commemorate today the fulfilment of the words of the Psalmist? The Church is constantly put to the test. The message that has always come to her from the holy Apostles Peter and Paul is clear and eloquent: by God’s grace, in every circumstance it is possible for the human being to become a sign of the victorious power of God. For this reason he must not be afraid. Those who put their confidence in God, freed from all fear, feel the consoling presence of the Spirit, especially in moments of trial and sorrow.
Homily of Pope John Paul II, June 29, 2002, Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Saints Peter and Paul