By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
During the Angelus on Tuesday, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis reflected on the Gospel of the day (Mt 16: 13 – 19) focusing his attention on the question that the Lord asks his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16: 15).
Who do you say that I am?
Inviting the faithful to give the Lord an answer that comes from the heart today, Pope Francis underlined the importance of the question that Jesus repeats to us:
“Who am I to you, who have accepted faith but are still afraid to set sail on my Word? Who am I to you, who have been a Christian for such a long time but, worn out by habit, have lost your first love? Who am I to you, who are going through a difficult time and need to rouse yourself in order to begin again?”
Who do people say that I am?
Prior to this question, Pope Francis noted that Jesus asked the disciples another: “Who do people say that I am?”
This question was a test, noted the Pope, to find out opinions about Jesus and the fame He enjoyed, even though notoriety did not interest Jesus.
He highlighted that Jesus asked the question to “underline a difference” which is the fundamental difference of Christian life – the difference between those who stop at the first question and at opinions and talking about Jesus, and those who, instead, “talk to Jesus, bringing their life to Him, entering into a relationship with Him, making the decisive step.”
This, the Pope said, “is what interests the Lord: to be at the centre of our thoughts, to become the reference point of our affections; to be, in short, the love of our lives.”
The witness of Saints Peter and Paul
Turning his attention to Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis noted that they took that step and became witnesses - imitators not admirers, protagonists of the Gospel and not spectators - “they believed not in words but in deeds.”
In this regard, Peter did not speak about mission but he was a fisher of men. Paul, for his part, did not write learned books but letters about how he lived as he traveled and bore witness. Both men, the Pope explained, “spent their lives for the Lord and for their brothers.”
The Holy Father then held up the example of Sts. Peter and Paul to provoke us from stalling at the first question, giving views, opinions and saying beautiful words but never putting them into practice. He lamented that “it is sad to see that many speak, comment and debate, but few bear witness.”
“Witnesses do not lose themselves in words, but rather they bear fruit,” the Pope said. “They do not complain about others and the world, but they start with themselves. They remind us that God is not to be demonstrated, but shown; not announced with proclamations but shown by example.”
Witnesses are not always exemplary
Pope Francis went on to point out that an objection may arise from looking at the lives of Sts Peter and Paul because “they were witnesses but they were not always exemplary” – Peter denied Jesus and Paul persecuted Christians.
However, “they also bore witness to their failures,” the Pope noted, adding that St. Peter’s story comes out “naked and raw” in the Gospels, with all its miseries, and St. Paul recounted his mistakes and weaknesses in his letters.
This is where witness begins, with the “truth about himself, with the fight against his own duplicity and falsehood,” Pope Francis underlined, adding that “the Lord can do great things through us when we are not careful to defend our image, but are transparent with Him and with others.”
In conclusion, the Holy Father pointed out that the Lord, through his witnesses Peter and Paul, urges us to “take off our masks, to renounce half measures and the excuses that make us lukewarm and mediocre.” He prayed that Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles, may kindle in us the desire to bear witness to Jesus.