Tuesday, November 17, 2009


“Saints Peter and Paul” by Jusepe de Ribera, 1616



Additional Information about the Dedication of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul [1]

Readings for the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul

Readings and Commentary:

Acts 28:11-16, 30-31

After three months
we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island [of Malta].
It was an Alexandrian ship with the Dioscuri
as its figurehead.
We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days,
and from there we sailed round the coast and arrived at Rhegium.
After a day, a south wind came up and in two days we reached Puteoli.
There we found some brothers
and were urged to stay with them for seven days.
And thus we came to Rome.
The brothers from there heard about us
and came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us.
On seeing them, Paul gave thanks to God and took courage.
When he entered Rome,
Paul was allowed to live by himself,
with the soldier who was guarding him.
He remained for two full years in his lodgings.
He received all who came to him,
and with complete assurance and without hindrance
he proclaimed the Kingdom of God
and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Commentary on
Acts 28:11-16, 30-31

In this selection from Acts we hear of St. Paul’s journey to Rome. Once he arrived he was placed under house arrest. He used his affiliation and knowledge of Jewish Law and customs to reach out to the Jewish community in Rome with an eye to conversion. 

“Although the ending of [the Book] of Acts may seem to be abrupt, Luke has now completed his story with the establishment of Paul and the proclamation of Christianity in Rome. Paul's confident and unhindered proclamation of the gospel in Rome forms the climax to the story whose outline was provided in Acts 1:8—‘You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem . . . and to the ends of the earth.’” [3]

Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

R. (see 2b) The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.

R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.

R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.

R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

Sing praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.

R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
Commentary on
Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Psalm 98 is a song of praise and thanksgiving. We see in this selection how God is praised for the strength he lends his people and the salvation he brings to those who are faithful. The psalmist rejoices in God’s salvation. The Lord has revealed his compassion toward the people and they sing his praises in response.

Matthew 14:22-33

After the crowd had eaten their fill,
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them, walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
"It is a ghost," they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."
Peter said to him in reply,
"Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."
He said, "Come."
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him,
and said to him, "0 you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
"Truly, you are the Son of God."

Commentary on
Mt 14:22-33

This passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel follows the feeding of the five thousand. The disciples return to the boat that brought them to this remote site while Jesus stays alone to pray (recall he had just gotten word of the murder of St. John the Baptist by Herod and had come to this place to mourn him). 

The events that follow, specifically Jesus' approach to the boat and walking on the water, support the Lord’s earlier demonstration that he has power over the sea and elements (see Matthew 8:26). St. Peter’s response to the Lord is to try to do as the Lord wishes, but his fear prevents him from accomplishing what the Lord has called him to do. This entire episode has one purpose – to allow the readers to share in the awe of the disciples as they make their profession of faith, “Truly, you are the Son of God." This account stands in stark contrast to St. Mark’s account of their response (see Mark 6:51).

CCC: Mt 14:30 448

While on the surface this feast may seem to celebrate a great and ancient church, the real focus of this celebration is on its namesakes, Sts. Peter and Paul. The feast itself was established very early in the Church.  While the buildings themselves have been refurbished, remodeled and updated over the millennia, their purpose and dedication to God the Eternal Father through his Apostles, Peter and Paul, and their great work in the name of our Savior has remained constant.

Today in scripture we recall these holy men who accepted the mantle of Disciple and then Apostle with humility and zeal. St. Peter, the first of the Twelve, persevered through doubt and fear to become the first Bishop of Rome, bearing the keys given by Jesus and handing them on through Papal Succession to our pontiff today. His very human faith and trials give us hope that our futile efforts will one day be counted as pleasing to the Lord.

We also remember St. Paul on this day. He was not given the advantage of being at the knee of the Son of God as he walked the earth as man. No, his call came as he was thrown from his horse and blinded on the road to Damascus. His mission there was to persecute the very Church he later built with the fire of his God-given intellect and grace. Turned from that course by Jesus himself, St. Paul carried the Gospel of the Lord to the “ends of the earth”; finding his way at last to Rome where, like St. Peter, he accepted the Martyr’s White Robe, washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb.

Together their holy relics lie buried beneath the incredible Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. In our remembrance of the place, we recall their example and give thanks to God for His gift of faith which led them to their final rest.


[1] The picture is “Saints Peter and Paul” by Jusepe de Ribera, 1616
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. 
[3] See NAB footnote on Acts 28:30-31

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