On Thursday, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis said that we can’t just know about our faith, but we must live our faith, with Jesus as the center of our hearts and lives.
“The question of life demands a response of life. For it counts little to know the articles of faith if we do not confess Jesus as the Lord of our lives," the Pope said June 29.
“Today he looks straight at us and asks, ‘Who am I for you?’ As if to say: ‘Am I still the Lord of your life, the longing of your heart, the reason for your hope, the source of your unfailing trust?’
Jesus is asking us today the same questions he asked to his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?" and “Who do you say that I am?" Francis continued. In the end, only Peter answers that he is “the Christ, the Son of the living God."
“Along with Saint Peter, we too renew today our life choice to be Jesus’ disciples and apostles. May we too pass from Jesus’ first question to his second, so as to be ‘his own’ not merely in words, but in our actions and our very lives," he said.
This is the “crucial question," he continued, especially for pastors. “It is the decisive question. It does not allow for a non-committal answer, because it brings into play our entire life."
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Mass celebrating the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of the city of Rome. During the ceremony, he blessed the pallia to be bestowed on the 32 new metropolitan archbishops who were present, all appointed throughout the previous year.
The pallium is a white wool vestment, adorned with six black silk crosses. Dating back to at least the fifth century, the wearing of the pallium by the Pope and metropolitan archbishops symbolizes authority as well as unity with the Holy See.
The title of “metropolitan bishop" refers to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis, namely, the primary city of an ecclesiastical province or regional capital.
Traditionally the Pope bestows the stole to the new archbishops June 29 each year. The rite is a sign of communion with the See of Peter. It also serves as a symbol of the metropolitan archbishop’s jurisdiction in his own diocese as well as the other particular dioceses within his ecclesiastical province.
However, as a sign of “synodality" with local Churches, Pope Francis decided in 2015 that new metropolitan archbishops will officially be imposed with the pallium in their home diocese, rather than the Vatican.
So while the new archbishops still journey to Rome to receive the pallium during the liturgy with the Pope, the official imposition ceremony is in their home diocese, allowing more faithful and bishops in dioceses under the archbishop’s jurisdiction to attend the event.
In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on three words from the liturgy that he said are “essential for the life of an apostle: confession, persecution and prayer."
For confession, the Pope spoke of the confession of faith, which means “to acknowledge in Jesus the long-awaited Messiah, the living God, the Lord of our lives."
We should ask ourselves, he said, if we are “parlor Christians," who only love to sit and chat about how things are going in the Church and the world, or “apostles on the go," people “who confess Jesus with their lives because they hold him in their hearts."
We can’t be half-hearted, he urged, but must be on fire with love for Christ, not looking for the easy way out, but daily risking ourselves to put out “into the deep."
“Those who confess their faith in Jesus do as Peter and Paul did: they follow him to the end – not just part of the way, but to the very end."
But doing so isn’t easy, and that’s when we come to the second word, he explained, because following the way of Christ, also means facing the cross and persecution.
Peter and Paul shed their blood for Christ, as well as the early Christian community as a whole. Even today, he continued, a great number of Christians are persecuted.
The Pope emphasized the words of the Apostle Paul, who said “to live was Christ, Christ crucified, who gave his life for him.”
“Apart from the cross, there is no Christ, but apart from the cross, there can be no Christian either,” Francis stated.
The Christian is called to “tolerate evil," but tolerating evil doesn’t mean simply having patience and resignation, he explained, it means imitating Christ, accepting the cross with confidence, carrying the burden for Christ’s sake and for the sake of others – all the while knowing that we are not alone.
“Tolerating evil,” he continued, “means overcoming it with Jesus, and in Jesus’ own way, which is not the way of the world.”
This is why St. Paul writes: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” The essence of this “good fight,” the Pope emphasized, was living “for Jesus and for others,” giving your all. There is only one thing that Paul kept in his life, and that is his faith.
“Out of love, he experienced trials, humiliations and suffering, which are never to be sought but always accepted. In the mystery of suffering offered up in love, in this mystery, embodied in our own day by so many of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, impoverished and infirm, the saving power of Jesus’ cross shines forth.”
Lastly, Pope Francis said that the life of an apostle must be a life of constant prayer.
“Prayer is the water needed to nurture hope and increase fidelity. Prayer makes us feel loved and it enables us to love in turn. It makes us press forward in moments of darkness because it brings God’s light. In the Church, it is prayer that sustains us and helps us to overcome difficulties.”
When St. Peter was in prison, it tell us in the Acts of the Apostles that “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church.”
“A Church that prays is watched over and cared for by the Lord. When we pray, we entrust our lives to him and to his loving care," he said.
Francis concluded by praying that the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, may “obtain for us a heart like theirs.”
Hearts that are wearied because they are constantly asking, knocking, interceding, weighed down by the many needs of people and situations that need to be handed over to God, but also at peace, because the Holy Spirit brings consolation and strength through prayer, he said.
“How urgent it is for the Church to have teachers of prayer, but even more so for us to be men and women of prayer, whose entire life is prayer!”
“The Lord answers our prayers. He is faithful to the love we have professed for him, and he stands beside us at times of trial."
Just as the Lord accompanied the journey of the Apostles, “he will do the same for you, dear brother Cardinals," he said.
“He will remain close to you too, dear brother Archbishops who, in receiving the pallium, will be strengthened to spend your lives for the flock, imitating the Good Shepherd who bears you on his shoulders.”