Celebrating the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis spoke on how both apostles showed an openness to the grace of Christ and overcame obstacles and fear through prayer.
In his homily for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis focused on the themes of “closing” and “opening” in the lives of the two patrons of Rome.
The Church must avoid the risk of closing in on itself out of persecution and fear, the Pope said. At the same time, she must be able to see “the small openings through which God can work.” Prayer, he said, “enables grace to open a way out from closure to openness, from fear to courage, from sadness to joy. And we can add: from division to unity.”
Read the full text of Pope Francis’ prepared homily for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul:
The word of God in today’s liturgy presents a clear central contrast between closing and opening. Together with this image we can consider the symbol of the keys that Jesus promises to Simon Peter so that he can open the entrance to the kingdom of heaven, and not close it before people, like some of the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus reproached (cf. Mt 23:13).
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-11) shows us three examples of “closing”: Peter is cast into prison; the community gathers behind closed doors in prayer; and – in the continuation of our reading – Peter knocks at the closed door of the house of Mary, the mother of John called Mark, after being set free.
In these three examples of “closing”, prayer appears as the main way out. It is a way out for the community, which risks closing in on itself out of persecution and fear. It is a way out for Peter who, at the very beginning of the mission given him by the Lord, is cast into prison by Herod and risks execution. While Peter was in prison, “the church prayed fervently to God for him” (Acts 12:5). The Lord responds to that prayer and sends his angel to liberate Peter, “rescuing him from the hand of Herod” (cf. v. 11). Prayer, as humble entrustment to God and his holy will, is always the way out of our becoming “closed”, as individuals and as a community.