You can say it again that Isaiah is a historic figure that could easily be identified as the lovely feet that bring the good news; announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness, attesting the reign of God the almighty!

In the first reading of this Sunday, he assures his people to expect God who comes to vindicate the oppressed, rescue those in danger of death, fight the unjust, give sight to the blind and restoration to the deaf and dumb. This prophecy is fulfilled in the gospel today. Jesus puts Isaiah’s prophetic hope into messianic fulfilment as he heals the man impeded by deaf and dumb.

Lest we forget, the idea of the messiah prior to the time of Jesus was very majestic; a sharp contrast to the humble incarnation of Jesus, the servant-king. He is the saviour who does not from a distance command his armies to crush his enemies and save his people. He is one who humbly pleads for peace. His greatest peace movement is to restore the human person into his original well-being and wholeness. He gets involved. He touches him with no protective gloves. He uses his own spittle. There is something unsual and extra-ordinary happening here. Jesus was not giving him the power of speech or ability to hear for the first time; his was the mission to restore what evil has deformed after creation.

He takes this man aside. He understands how much attention he needs. He knows that the disabled persons could easily be lost in the crowd. He knows he has special needs. He knows he has a dignity to protect from the crowd. But most importantly, he wants to be healed.

A little step into the world of the deaf and dumb: think about the frustration of being in a foreign land where you can neither speak or understand the language. If that is frustrating, then imagine the inability to speak or hear any sound; yet you want to hear others and express yourself verbally. This man represents, not just those who are handicapped, but shows the frustration and helplessness that go with it, vis-a-vis the hope of Jesus’ healing presence.

On a further step, the deaf and dumb could represent the entire humanity Jesus has come to save. How often we could turn a deaf ear to the cry of those in need and pretend we don’t even see. How often we choose to be speechless in the face of obvious injustice.

Jesus has come to save us that we may be able to save others by the same saving grace. He commands “Ephphata” that the ears of our hearts may be opened to receive the message of love and salvation in other that our tongue may proclaim the good news that indeed, “he has done all things well”.


Moses asks his people, Israel, to take notice of the Law of the Lord, observe them and let them be wise guide into the fulness of life. Law and Tradition is very important in the society. Tradition could be considered as the most enduring culture and lifestyle. But that does not mean that every enduring tradition is a good one. It feels secure to fall back to one’s tradition. You could easily trust what you are used to more than what is new. Law preserves and consolidates tradition. But some other times, law challenges and shakes the very foundations of a tradition; especially, when some form of law, which strongly supports tradition, in itself, becomes obsolete.

Law is meant to govern the behaviours between people. Law protects our basic human rights and freedom. When law compels me to fulfil my obligation it protects your right at the same time; because, my obligation is your right, and vice-versa. Sometimes, we may not realise how free we are until law and the justice it upholds is undermined; or when people take laws into their hands. A state of lawlessness is a state of chaos and confussion.

But the same law and tradition could be abused. The common abuse of the law is the failure to appreciate the purpose and spirit of the law. Like tradition, law is meant to be at the service of humanity. The human person and their needs must come first before the law. The humanitarian ideals must be the supreme focus of the law. Human rights are natural. They do not proceed from any human laws; Rather, such laws protect them.

If law is such a mechanism to protect and safeguard our rights, lives, property, aspirations and dreams, why do we often get agitated with laws? Simply put, the human person, out of historical experiences, have seen laws abused in a way that they often do not serve or protect the interest of the people but have served the selfish interest of those who make the laws, those who interprete them and those who apply them.

Jesus, in his time, was aware of the abuse of tradition and laws and he intervened. He was tagged a rebel, one who had no respect for the law and tradition. But he clearly stated, “I have come, not to abolish the law, but to fulfil it.” His mission was to remind us to read beyond the letters of the law and get to the heart and spirit of the law, which is that big heart called LOVE. Those who truly love do not fear to break the laws; love protects them more than the law. Those who make harsh laws and those who do not dispense the law with justice and fairness, mercy and compassion are but far from the end purpose of the law – LOVE. They are those Jesus referred to as hypocrites. Hypocrite is from the two Greek etymologies – hupo and krites: under – judge or under – criticism. In other words, hypocrites live their lives in consciousness of being watched, judged, assessed or criticised. How often do we shy away from practising our faith because we think others may judge us or call us hypocrites? I will be a true hypocrite when I give in to the imaginery or real criticism of those who see no point in my being weak and still practise my faith. After all, the Church is a welcome place for all saints and sinners. We are called to do good and not necessarily to be seen doing good; we are encouraged to avoid evil, not necessarily to avoid scandals.

The law often justifies and is often justified by the external manifestations; but who can know what is hidden in the heart? The mind engages the human reason to make laws that gurantee some sense of order and harmony, while the heart engages the human compassion to embrace peace, love, forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus asks us to make that inward journey into the heart. Be in touch with your inner self; for that is more inportant than the external rituals. The heart is where the conversion takes place. That is where good and evil intentions proceed. A change of heart is far more important than a change of tradition or amendment of the law. People and places change; empires and kingdoms come to an end; laws and traditions may change but love endures from one generation to the next. It is not he who keeps the law to its perfection but the just who will live in the presence of the Lord (Psalm14).


Every human person in one way or the other is searching for God. Deep down in the heart of the human person is asked the simple but complex question, “God, who are you and what are you?” Christians focus on Christ as the medium of unraveling the entire reality of the whole existence. He is our point of reference through whom we can make sense of the mystery of life.

Jesus, we are told, is the complete revelation of God. To have seen him is to have seen the Father. Blessed are those who have not seen but believed. We are those who have not seen the historical Jesus but we do believe (at least some of us). Another question is whether Jesus knew who he was from the very beginning. Did he know he was God as a growing child of Mary and Joseph?

He is both God and Man; fully human and fully divine. As a divine person he knew himself perfectly well. But as a human person, his knowledge of himself took the normal process of human self-discovery. He had to work out who he was and what his mission was all about. The key moments of Jesus’ life and ministry served as moments of self-revelation as God and self-discovery as man. Some of these key moments are his Baptism (A voice spoke from the heavens, this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased); Miracle at Cana (Mary asks him to be the provident God that he is); his Temptation, Transfiguration, Meeting with the Cananite Woman, Peter’s Confession, etc. These must have been mind puzzling moments for Jesus, who would be asking himself a very big question as a human being – “Who am I”?

The disciples’ call to discipleship was to follow Jesus. Follow him to do what? It is a call and an invitation to discover Jesus. He would ask them the question, who do people say I am? And you, who do you say I am? We too are called and chosen to discover who Jesus is. Sometimes, this is done through discovering who we are and who our neighbour is; to discover our environment and what is behind it all; to discover our humanity and the divinity shared with Christ.

If our mission is to make him known to the whole world, we cannot do this if we do not know who he is. You cannot give that which you do not have. Doing this means getting closer and getting involved. It is not enough to be a nominal Christian. Sharing his life and ministry, being part of his passion, cross and resurrection is our calling.

The gesture seen in the first reading today explains it all. Joshua first and foremost gathered the people together, after which he explained to them historically and theologically where they have been in relationship with God; who and what God has been for them as a people. Having gathered and explained the truth to them, he asked them “to choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” How can you make a choice if you are not well informed of the choice you make? How can you be informed when you refuse or reject the offer and the opportunity to know the Truth? How can you be connected to Jesus the way, the truth and the life if you are not closer to the body of Christ?

In the presence of Joshua, the ‘migrant’ assembly of the people, having found a peaceful settlement from their long journey to freedom, crossing through the dangerous desert, the deadly sea and the hostile borders, made a choice and rededicated their lives to serve the Lord. Not all who are offered the gift of faith in such tough circumstances would accept it or make the choice to abide by it. In the end, it is about choice. Some walked away when Jesus said I am the Bread of Life. Others chose to stay, though not all who chose to stay believed. Jesus made the difference between those who do not believe and the one who would betray him. Betrayal is human, faith-belief is divine. The greatest victories of life is not in wars and subjection of others and territories, nor in fortifying boundaries and borderlands. The greatest victory is fidelity to what we, in conscience, believe to be true. In the journey of faith Jesus invites us to experience in him the true way to eternal life. Would you accept the invitation? If you have honoured the invitation would you stay or walk away? If you believe, let us stand now and profess our faith.


I have celebrated another beautiful wedding this weekend in the parish. It adds to the numerous occassions of sacramental celebrations in the parish. This year alone, not only marriages, or the daily celebration of the Eucharist, the parish has also witnessed the celebration of Baptisms, First Holy Communion, Confirmation and of course, Funerals. These have been special moments of grace for families and our parish community. In such occassions the family of God’s people gather together to express their joys and happiness of the moment; and in challenging times and loss, to give and receive support from one another.

Sacraments, as signs leading us to deeper meaning in life are deep rooted in families and actual life experiences. All the seven sacraments of the Church are lived out daily in families: Baptism reminds us when a child is born into the family; Eucharist – the family meal; Confirmation – no child is expected to be a baby forever, they grow up and become adult and independent; Marriage is the heartbeat of family life; Penance/Reconciliation – we do step on each other’s toes in the family and we say SORRY; Sacrament of the sick – any of us can get sick and disabled people come from families – we have the duty of care for the weak and feeble in the family. Last but not the least is the Holy Orders – never forget that the priests and those set aside for the special ministry come from families and are sent back to minister to families.

How fortunate are those who receive these sacraments. How happy and blessed are those who are called to partake of the sacramental life of the Church; those for whom the Psalmist invites to “Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord”. That same psalm beautifully rendered by the Clifton diocese choir on my priestly ordination.

Indeed, I can testify to the Lord’s goodness. I have realised that though we hardly ever think about it, the priests and ministers of the scraments are not only the dispensers of the great sacramental grace, but most importantly, they are equally recipients and partakers of the same sacrament they celebrate with the rest of the faithful. What a privilege for me to offer the sacrifice of Mass for the living and the dead; But I am more blessed for the privilege to receive any of the sacraments, like any member of the Church. I recount the words of St Augustine to the people of God, “For you I am a priest, but with you I am a Christian.” In this case, we can actually say, more blessed is the one that receives than the one that dispenses. This is the irony of the sacrifice of the Cross and the Eucharist. How important for the people of God gathered around the altar to observe that the priest takes time during the mass to receive the Eucharist very reverently, before rushing into giving communion to others. How important it is for the priest to lead the congregation in some moments of silent reflection after communion before the post communion prayer.

Elijah’s experience today couldn’t speak more about the great privilege we have in the reception of the sacrament, especially, the Eucharist. It came at the time when he felt he had had enough. God sent his messenger, that angel who ministers even to the ministers. He was given food to eat, and after the second meal, he was commanded to get on with his work. This is the support and encouragement we need when we think we can no longer continue in our good works; especially, in our journey in faith as pilgrims. God gives us the food of angels – Panis Angelicus, to sustain us on our journies. Christian journey is a ‘way of love’; the road to love is a very long way, stretching beyond our imagination. It could be challenging and frustrating but its reward is incredible.

Like Elijah who was frustrated to the extent of giving up, Jesus faces the same frustration and challenge before his opponents. His adversaries dont understand why he says he would give his own flesh and blood. It is not actually easy to understand, let’s be realistic; but it is possible in what it signifies – love beyond telling; sacrifice and kindness to total strangers; forgiveness to those who hate us and hurt us; Grieving not the Holy Spirit but being at peace with oursleves and with each other; Good will to those who do not wish us well. This is what the sacrifice of the Cross represents for us, made present and constantly re-enacted in the Eucharist.

We remember in Euccharist communion, those who are not physically and spiritually able to receive it; those whose circumstances have cut them off from the support of the Church; those who are not in Communion with the Church; the sick and housebounds for whom the hunger and thirst for the Eucharist means so much.


Give yourself some seconds; think about your attitude to food and drink. Is it the right one? Do you remember the last meal you had? Did you appreciate it and where it came from? Did you appreciate who prepared it, even if you paid for it in the restaurant? Did you appreciate who paid for the meal if not you? Did you thank God for such great privilege to have food on your table? Do you easily forget what you have had and get preoccupied with what to consume next; the next drink to taste; the next pub to visit and the next recipe to try? In all these, we could easily lose the sense of sacredness in the food we eat.

Food or drink is important for human nourishment. They are life-giving nourishments. This is what makes them sacred. Prayer before or after meal reminds us of this sense of sacredness attached to the food and drink we consume. If we dont eat or drink we die of hunger and starvation. It all means that we must eat and drink to live. It equally means we must not live to eat and drink. Whatever nourishes our lives adds value to our life and whatever we take that does not add any value to our system can be dangerous to the same life we want to preserve.

The sin of gluttony is the sin against the dignity of food and drink as human nourishment. It goes with selfishness, greed and self-indulgence. Food and drink can become a complete different god to worship.

Last week, in the gospel, Jesus feeds the crowd and they had plenty to eat. Today, the same crowd approaches him expecting to be fed again. Jesus speaks in the person of God who sees the heart and mind of each person. He looks into their innermost intentions and tells them why they have gathered around him. Jesus makes a difference between the need of the people and their want. Last week, they needed food because they were starving. This week, they are driven by want and desire. Jesus had to correct this in the people. You are not here because you want to listen to me but because of the bread. Work and hunger for the bread that satisfies and not the one that makes us hungry and unsatisfied. Some form of food and drink inclination could leave one with unquenchable desire and hunger for the rest of their lives. This is what addiction is all about. Jesus warns against that.

He uses the opportunity to challenge those who are perpetualy at the receiving end; those who constantly demand from others, like the people did in the desert. Those who think someone else in their family, in the Church is owing them or that the rest of the society have some duty to look after them while they fold their hands and do nothing themselves. Jesus challenges those who exploit and abuse the generosity of others; those who exploit the natural habitat and environment to satisfy their own consumerism and that of the modern world.

By this teaching, Jesus asks the people to hunger for the things of the Spirit. Be hungry for love; be starving for charity; let the hunger and thirst for justice and peace overwhelm you. Seek and hunger for the kingdom of God and its righteousness, everything else will be added on to you.

Search no longer for the bread that perishes but for Him who gives you the bread of life. “The bread I give is my very flesh”, says Jesus. Take this all of you and eat of it; drink my blood, for I die to myself that you might live forever.

By the manna in the desert, the people came to encounter God himself through Moses. In the same manner, by the breaking of Bread and sharing of one sacred Chalice, the faithful come to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist, who is always nourishing us for the journey into eternity. This food is sacred. Therefore, all who receive it become sacred and are restored back to the dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God.


A true Christian is not a mere fan of Christianity. He is a committed follower; a dicsiple. As disciples, Christians sit at the feet of Jesus ready and willing to know and do his will even in the most difficult circumstances.

St Paul addresses the Christians in Ephesus saying, “I, the prisoner in the Lord (a committed disciple), implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation.” Indeed, we are all called and gathered in the Spirit, under the umbrella of one Faith, one Hope, and one Baptism in Christ, which makes us all sons and daughters of one Father.This calling demands that we share one fellowship and truth until that day when we will be gathered at the table of God’s kingdom, hoping that no one will be lost. This fellowship must be expressed in our committment to preserve the unity of the Spirit, through peace, complete selflessness, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another charitably.

The early Christians were united, heart and mind through the breaking of the Bread and the breaking of the Word; an extension of the Spirit of love and onenness. Through this, they not only recognised the constant presence of Jesus, but the recongition of each other, especially those in need. It is not about me. It is about us. In sacrifice we forfeit our rights to benefit others.

Elisha, the prophet, sacrifices what is due to him, the bread of the first fruits, instructing that it should be used to feed the hungry.

In the gospel today the crowd is gathered for all sorts of needs. The sick were cured and miracles performed. But in the midst of these spiritual needs and support, Jesus recognises hunger in the people. They are starving. They need something to eat. Then he turns to Philip to discuss the possibility of buying some food for the people. [Philip makes a very good risk assessment on the danger of spending such a huge amount [Two Hundred Dinarii] which would only purchase a small amount that goes no where to feed the whole crowd.] But Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, has another idea [probably a strange one], getting a little boy’s ‘pack lunch’ to feed the crowd. It all sounds like a fairy tale; but miracles do sound so. Don’t they? That is why they are what they are – extra-ordinary things emerging out of ordinary situations.

Miracle story is not necessarily about whether it happened exactly as the story is told but it is about what the story does to the lives of all who hear it and the generations to come.

In this passage the miracle is that we can learn to trust the little we have more than waiting until we win or receive some huge amount. The miracle is that we can start from where we are, not waiting until where we want to be comes to us. It is a miracle to believe that we can find help from where we least expect it. The poor boy has fed the crowd, including the rich among them. It is a miracle to know that sharing makes all the difference. It is in the distribution of resources that we all prosper. Through this passage we receive the miracle that calms our anxiety and worry over what we have – the fear that we do not have enough to share. The miracle is that the drops of food materials donated to foodbank in this country accumulates to become tons of food feeding millions of people in this country. The poor no longer exists only in our minds or far across the sea. They are our neighbours. We see them everyday.

The best miracle in this passage is Jesus’ instruction to his disciples after everyone had been fed: “Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing is wasted.” Jesus said this over two thousand years ago but still relevant today. The miracle is in its relevance to our lives. There is a link between the poverty of the world and the senseless wastes in the world. Millions of empty stomachs matching millions of overflowing waste containers of food and other resources meant for the hungry and the needy. We find these wastes mostly in homes, restaurants and supermarkets.

Let me add one last miracle of this passage: Jesus escapes being forced to become king. He realises it is because of their hunger for power and control that they want to make him king. Look around you and you will see the link between hunger in the world and power control – starting from local corruption within nations to the international and foreign policies that exploit the poverty and hunger of the underdeveloped societies to push some selfish and often irrelevant foreign policies and agenda. Yes, the miracle is that it strikes our little consciences.


The gospel today makes me smile. The apostles have been working so very hard that they have had no space to even eat. Jesus knows about this and the need for them to go off some quiet place and rest. This planned rest was spoilt by the crowd who have gone ahead of Jesus and his disciples to wait for them at the same place they were meant to stay and rest. Jesus was not upset at this but took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. This pastoral approach sets a standard for the disciples, as well as correcting the poor shepherding habits expressed in the prophecy of Jeremiah.

Let’s not be too romantic about this gospel passage. It sounds like those awkward moments when you have planned to go off and rest from the tight daily schedule and suddenly you have an emergency call that needs pastoral attention. You are torn apart between your care for the flock and your responsibility of personal care and wellbeing, either which is as important as the other.

At such moments you hardly ever remember the wise advice often given to all whose vocation and profession are very demanding; suggesting that they need to plan their lives and take some rest in order to be physically and emotionally stable enough to do their work. But how much can you plan your life to get a bit of rest in the midst of tight busy pastoral life? The reality is that a greater percentage of what happens to us and those we serve is unplanned. There is hardly ever the question of planned accidents, marriage and family breakdown, economic challenges, sickness and death etc. These are often the challenges that face those we serve.

Jesus did all that was humanly possible to plan his life and ministry: The call of his disciples; choosing a specific number as disciples; picking a particular number for mission; sending them on a specific mission; instructing them on a specific style and approach and where exactly they must go; he chose when to pray and where; he taught them the rubrics of our Lord’s Prayer; he planned his actions at the cleansing of the temple; he sent his disciples ahead to prepare the feast of Passover.

But in all these, most of his life and ministry was unplanned. All the miracles, starting with the marriage at Cana, were only in response to the needs of people and to give glory to God. They were not planned. It wasn’t a show. Rather, he used every given unplanned challenge to bear witness to the grace of God working in the least possible moments.

The unplanned moments of life can be moments of grace; moments of faith, hope and love. What is it that Jeremiah laments about the shepherds? What are they not doing right? They have not been doing their duty of ‘gathering together’ the scattered flock. A true shepherd is one who gathers his flock. It is easier to scatter than to gather. Gathering the pieces of broken humanity can be tough. Gathering the debris of the unplanned accidents and incidents of life can be demanding. Gathering the divided nations, races and tribes of the world into the peace of Christ, who through his blood has made the two into one, can be daring; the temptation is to take the easy route of division, playing into the hands of segregations or to feed on the gullibility of the flock than to feed them with truth and justice, which liberates.

Jesus took pity on the crowd. Yes, he did. Mercy and compassion is the motivating force that drives the true shepherds into ministry. Where there is no mercy there is no ministry. Where there is no compassion there is no conscience. The Goodness and Mercy of the Lord, our Shepherd, should follow us all the days of our lives. If we must have a plan for the ministry, it is the plan to be ready to show mercy and compassion in every circumstance. This can only be possible when we are truly connected with our own inner strength and weakness.


About 8th Century BC an unfamiliar voice was heard disturbing the “peace” of the land. He was like that voice in the wilderness that would be heard 700 years later preparing the way for the Lord and making his paths straight. Amasiah couldnt take it for so long and had to confront this rebel called Amos. Surely, he was not one of the Royal Court Prophets or any of the group of prophets of his time. Amos spoke up that he never claimed to belong to the institutional prophetism. He was only a shepherd looking after his sheep before he was called by God to be his messenger.

He rose at the crucial time when prophecy became a profession and the message became secondary. His uprising message suggested that the messenger must decrease, while the message must be exalted.

His message was for the Northern Kingdom of Israel which flourished in material wealth, power and prosperity. Underneath the great economic and political stability of his time was corruption, immorality and social injustice swept under the carpet. Amos had to let the cat out. He spoke up for the poor against the powerful and the rich.

Hundreds of years after the prophecy of Amos, the world hasn’t changed much in terms of social justice. We are still faced with the problems of injustice and marginalisation; social exclusion; economic and political exploitation. Who speaks up for the poor? Who has the gut to challenge the powerful individuals and institutions who call the shots? Who cares about the “boring” topic about the poor? What has gone wrong with the conscience of the soceity? It is not about feeling sorry or pity for the poor. It is not about being embarrassed about them. It is not about throwing off a few coins at them. It is about doing something to change the structure that pushes anyone into poverty or making them remain poor.

Blessed be God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. He chose us before the foundations of the world, to be holy and blameless before him. Being holy and blameless is to act with justice and fairness. We are called and chosen to go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news – heal the sick, raise the down trodden, support the weak and free those held in captivity of all sorts.

Pope Francis comes across to me as the Amos of our time; a true shepherd who stands up for his sheep against the wolves of all times. We must listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd; the voice that speaks of peace and justice. Peace to men and women of goodwill.


Prophecy in the bible is such a complex set of literature. In the Hebrew Bible we are told about numerous prophetic utterances. The prophets themselves warn against false prophecy. Biblical exegets have spent some fair amount of time in research on prophetic writings. A particular area of interest is on making the difference between false prophets and the authentic prophets. Amos, in some of his prophetic writings, informs us that what makes an authentic prophet is not primarily about the prophet himself but the message. In other words it is the authentic prophecy that makes the prophet authentic.

It is not about the messenger. It is about the message. It is not about medium of this transmittion. It is about the one who uses a chosen vessel to convey his message.

It sounds odd but it is true to say that one of the true marks of authentic prophecy is it’s “resistance” The Truth often finds resistance. It is often rejected, doubted, reidculed and exchanged with falsehood. It is against this background that we understand Ezekiel’s prophecy this Sunday as the spirit said to him, ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to the rebels who have turned against me. Till now they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me. The sons are defiant and obstinate; I am sending you to them, to say, “The Lord says this.” Whether they listen or not, this set of rebels shall know there is a prophet among them.’

Jesus goes to his home town acommpanied by his disciples. His message and teaching in the Synagogue was so profound that they were all astonished. The same people couldn’t take in such an amazing experience of Jesus. Where did he get this? How did he get such wisdom? What is his source of such miraculous powers? We know his parents, brothers and sisters. We know his humble story of birth. And they would not accept him. Jesus repeats the old prophetic saying, “A prophet is only despised in his own country among his own relations and in his own house.” A better translation to this passage could read, “Jesus chose to work no miracles there, though he couldn’t resist curing the sick.” “He was shocked; scandalised by their lack of faith.” His own house, relations, home town and country here symbolises the entire humanity he has come to redeem. His own flesh and blood rejects him and resists his message. God meets rejection among the people he has created in his own image and likeness. This takes us back again to the prophecy of Ezekiel.

St Paul gives us a bit of hope. He reminds us that it is for this weak human flesh that Jesus has come. ‘My grace is enough for you; my power is at its best in weakness.’ ‘I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.’

Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul – Year B, 2015

The Apostolic Tradition of the Church is held in equal balance with the inspired Sacred Scripture; they complement each other. It is the same complement that is symbolised in the persons of the great apostles, Peter and Paul. It is about two different apostles, who have slightly different pastoral approaches and charism but same Faith, same Hope and same Love of Christ through one baptism. They are like two pillars holding the Church Building. But the Church is not just the building but the people of God.

The gospel of this Sunday speaks of Peter’s great confession of faith. He is the first human to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the son of the living God. Jesus, in return, confirms Peter’s new identity. “Simon son of Jonah, from this moment, you shall be called Peter, upon this rock I will build my church; and the gate of the underworld shall never prevail against it.” The promise of this Church built upon Peter is realised in Paul and the rest of the apostles. Paul engaged in the great commission of Christ who said to his disciples to go forth and preach the goodnews. Peter held the Faith Tradition as a great custodian, while Paul made this Faith Tradition known to the wider world, thanks to them for the universality of the Church today. Paul, at the dramatic moment of his conversion questioned, “Who are you Lord?” – That genuine question of those who seek Christ with sincere heart. On the other hand, Peter responded to this question when he made that profound profession of his Faith, “You (Jesus) are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is the same moment that Jesus commissioned Peter as the Rock upon which the Church would be built. Eventually and ironically, Peter would be reminded of his position as a follower of Christ and not meant to be “satana”, which means a stumbling block. He is meant to be the rock of foundation supporting the Faith of others and not a hindrance to Christ’s mission. This is a lesson for us as a Church and as individuals. If by any reason we cannot help, let us not hinder. Ours is not to be in front of Jesus, leading the way; we must be behind Jesus, as true followers. He says, anyone who wants to be my disciple must take up his cross and follow me.

Worth mentioning are the witnesses borne by these great men of the Church. When we talk about their witnesses, what may easily come to our minds is how they spoke and wrote about Christ or how they worked hard in different ministries and missions; or how they witnessed by the ultimate price of martyrdom. These are great witnesses. However, one of their greatest witnesses is that of their human weaknesses. Peter denied Jesus three times; very much ashamed of himself for that and truly sorry. Paul talks about this human weakness of his that is like a thorn in the flesh (some sort of addiction?); the more he tries to do the right thing he ends of doing the opposite. But this led him to trust less in his own power but to submit to the grace of God; for when I am weak, I am strong. In this, Peter and Paul have witnessed to the frailty of the human person and the power of God who strengthens us. The Church is both human and divine; the Church of both saints and sinners; the Church that relies on God’s grace, especially in moments when we cannot but entrust our cares to Christ the solid rock.

At the end of his mission of bearing witness to Christ, Paul writes from prison: I have fought the good fight, I have run a good race; my life has been poured out like a libation. What awaits me is the crown of glory which Christ has prepared for me. By this he professes his faith, his hope and the love of Christ that inspires these virtues. Faith without the practical expression of love is a hopeless one.