Vatican City, Jun 29, 2014 / 08:39 am
During his Sunday Angelus on the Feast of Peter and Paul, Pope Francis called the faithful to open themselves to the transforming power of God's grace and mercy in their own lives.
"Since ancient times the Roman Church celebrates the Apostles Peter and Paul in one unique feast on the same day, June 29," the Pope observed.
He explained that "this feast inspires in us a great joy, because it confronts us with God's work of mercy in the hearts of two men, and God's work of mercy in these two men, that were great sinners."
Noting Peter's denial of Christ during the Passion and Paul's persecution of Christians, the pontiff stressed that it was grace that "has accomplished great things, has transformed them."
"But together they both receive the love of God and are left transformed by his mercy; so they became friends and apostles of Christ," he said. "Thus they continue to speak to the Church and still today show us the way of salvation."
Similarly, the pontiff explained, even if we "fall into the greatest sin and into the darkest night," God always wishes to transform our hearts and forgive our sins, bringing us from darkness into light.
He noted the radical transformation of St. Paul after encountering Christ on the road to Damascus: going from "a bitter enemy of the Church" to putting "his whole existence to the service of the Gospel."
"Also for us the encounter with the Word of Christ is able to transform our entire life," he continued. "It's not possible to hear his Word and remain firmly in one's place, getting stuck in one's habits. It pushes us to overcome the selfishness that we have in our hearts in order to decisively follow the Teacher that has given his life for his friends."
Encountering Christ in our lives is what changes us and leads us to ask for forgiveness, he reflected.
On this feast day, the faithful can learn from St. Peter and St. Paul, two very different men who were both chosen by Christ and "responded to the call offering their entire lives," the Pope said. "Faith in Jesus Christ has made them brothers and martyrdom has made them become one."
"And God also wants to fill us with his grace, as he did with Peter and with Paul," Pope Francis added. "May the Virgin Mary help us to welcome it with open hearts, as they did, and not to receive it in vain! And may she sustain us in the time of trial, to give testimony to Jesus Christ and his Gospel."
The Pope prayed especially for the new Metropolitan Archbishops who received their pallium earlier in the day at St. Peter's.
"We greet them all with affection together with their faithful and friends, and we pray for them!" he said.
After the Angelus, Pope Francis commented on the news of continued violence in Iraq, saying that it is "unfortunately very painful."
"I join the bishops of the country in appealing the governments because, through dialogue, you can preserve national unity and avoid war," he said.
"I am close to the thousands of families, especially Christians, that have had to leave their homes and that are in great danger," the Pope continued. "Violence begets violence; dialogue is the only way to peace. We pray to the Madonna, because she watches over the people of Iraq."