By Lydia O'Kane
As Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis on Saturday celebrated the feast of the Patrons of this ancient city, Saints Peter and Paul.
Dressed in red vestments and against the backdrop of a magnificent St Peter’s Basilica, the Pope noted that these Apostles “stand before us as witnesses.”
During his homily, the Pontiff said, “if we go to the heart of that testimony, we can see them as witnesses to life, witnesses to forgiveness and witnesses to Jesus.”
Pope Francis underlined that the lives of these Saints “were not neat and linear.”
“There is a great teaching here”, he went on to say. “The starting point of the Christian life is not our worthiness.”
“Whenever we consider ourselves smarter or better than others, that is the beginning of the end.” The Lord, the Pope continued, “does not work miracles with those who consider themselves righteous, but with those who know themselves to be needy...”
Pope Francis pointed out that, throughout their lives, Peter and Paul practiced humility.
“Both understood that holiness does not consist in exalting but rather in humbling oneself”, he said. “Holiness is not a contest, but a question of entrusting our own poverty each day to the Lord, who does great things for those who are lowly.”
Posing the question, “What was the secret that made them persevere amid weakness? He answered by saying, “It was the Lord’s forgiveness.”
In their failings, these Saints, he said, “encountered the powerful mercy of the Lord, who gave them rebirth. In his forgiveness, they encountered irrepressible peace and joy.”
Witnesses to Jesus
Peter and Paul stressed the Pope, “are ultimately witnesses to Jesus.”
“For those who are his witnesses, Jesus is more than a historical personage; he is a living person: he is newness, not things we have already seen, the newness of the future and not a memory from the past.”
Jesus, remarked Pope Francis, “does not care about polls or past history. He is not looking for editors of religion, much less “front page” Christians. He is looking for witnesses who say to him each day: “Lord, you are my life”.”
The Pope went on to explain that, “having met Jesus and experienced his forgiveness, the Apostles bore witness to him by living a new life: they no longer held back, but gave themselves over completely.”
“Let us ask for the grace not to be lukewarm Christians living by half measures, allowing our love to grow cold”, said Pope Francis. “Let us rediscover who we truly are through a daily relationship with Jesus and through the power of his forgiveness.”
Towards the end of his Homily, the Pope noted that on this feast day the pallia for the Metropolitan Archbishops named in the past year are blessed.
The pallium, he said, recalls the sheep that the shepherd is called to bear on his shoulders. It is a sign that the shepherds do not live for themselves but for their sheep.”
He also greeted a Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. “Your presence”, he told them, “reminds us that we can spare no effort also in the journey towards full unity among believers, in communion at every level.”