Homily – 23rd August, 2020

Cupola of St. Peter's Basilica on the Inside

Homily on the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Kettering, 2020

Probably most of us have had the privilege of visiting Italy, Rome and Saint Peter’s Basilica. I remember when – for the first time in my life, as a young boy – I visited this wonderful and impressive church, that is rightly called the mother of all churches. And I remember that when I approached the tomb of Saint Peter, under the imposing and magnificent dome of this temple, raised my head up and read the inscription in Latin that runs around this dome, I felt very safe being a member of the Church.

“Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam”,

Which means: You are Peter and, on this rock, I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.

As a young boy, I felt and realized that the Church is a very special and only place with such a powerful and spiritual strength that flows from God’s constant presence in the Eucharist.

In today’s Gospel we heard a very interesting dialogue between Jesus and Peter. Who do people say the Son of Man is? – that was the first question Jesus asked his disciple. We can suppose that the answer to this question wasn’t difficult for Peter, and I think he easily remembered what other people thought or used to say about Jesus.

Certainly, the answer to the second question was not so easy and required much more effort and courage from Peter, because in fact it was an extremely important test or examination of his faith. Yes, as we heard, Peter has passed this exam very well, although he knew that a verbal declaration of faith was not enough for Jesus, because Jesus expected from his disciples, above all, a testimony of life.

If we know the story of his life, we know that Peter not only verbally confessed his faith, but also confirmed – through his heroic life and through his martyrdom on the cross – that Jesus was everything to him, that only Jesus is the true meaning of life, that only Jesus is the beginning and the end of everything that ever existed, and finally that only he is the Son of the living God, who came to save every human being.

May this beautiful confession of Peter’s faith – which is described in today’s Gospel – encourage us and strengthen our faith, especially in this difficult time of fear and uncertainty. In a moment – as we used to do every Sunday before lockdown – we will say the Creed together. We’ll say it very loud and clear. It will be exactly the same saying and confession to Jesus as Peter confessed: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

But we need to remember that, just like in the life of Peter, we will have to constantly confirm our faith through our deeds or actions. We will have to do this when we leave this church in a moment to return to our daily routine. Many times, in our life we will have to pass this extremely difficult test or exam of our faith, which we profess so easily in the church, and much harder at home and on the street, among family and friends, at work and at school and in many other places.

You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church. Of course, when Jesus spoke these words, he was referring to a spiritual church that is made up of people who trust and believe in him. He didn’t say: You are Peter, and on this rock, I want to build an impressive and huge basilica in Rome, that will be admired by people of all ages and generations. He didn’t say anything like that…

Let us reflect for a moment and ask: What does Jesus want to tell us through this beautiful gospel? What does He want to tell us on the occasion of the reopening of our church? What is the main message of this gospel to our parish community and to each of us?

As you can see, we have finally managed to open St Edward’s church after a long time of closure due to the pandemic. I know how much many of us have missed the church and parish community and we can say that this Sunday is a great celebration of opening and thanksgiving. Our parish church was built many years ago during war, and today we are very grateful to God and many people for this beautiful temple, which has become even more beautiful in recent weeks, and I hope you have the same impression as me. So many people have spent a lot of time and put much effort so that we can enjoy God’s presence in a beautiful and bright church. The list of people to whom I would like to say “thank you” is very long and today we don’t have time to mention all the names of painters, plumbers, volunteers and cleaners.

I am convinced that Jesus is very pleased with the efforts of so many people, but I am even more convinced that he encourages us to build a spiritual church, a church that is invisible, but which has a great power to protect us from all evil, tragedies and Satan’s snares. The gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. Jesus invites us to make this beautiful and renovated church a place of constant prayer and adoration. He asks us especially today that in this church – the beauty of which we can be very proud of – we draw energy and strength to bear witness in our daily lives.

Amen.

Fr Gregory Marchwinski