One year ago today, I sat in St. Peter's Basilica celebrating the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul as I watched our Archbishop receive his pallium. I sat not far from the Holy Father who told us: "God is close to his faithful servants and delivers them from all evil and delivers the Church from negative powers (Benedict XVI, Homily, 6/29/10)." These words bring me great comfort as I prepare to embrace my next mission in a new parish. The Church, and indeed all of us, are surrounded by so many negative forces that seek to distract us from focusing on the person of Jesus Christ. But the Scriptures today, as Pope Bendict reminded us last year, seek to remind us, as Christ reminded Peter, that "the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against [the Church] (Mat 16:19)." This assurance from our Savior should embolden us to spread the Good News with renewed zeal. We indeed shall be tested as is evidenced when we read the Acts of the Apostles, but the rewards are eternal. In fact, one can argue that we don't have to wait for heaven to reap the rewards of spreading the Gospel, for we already have so many blessings that our Savior left us right here on earth such as his Real Presence in the Eucharist. I truly felt that I was in the presence of the divine as I sat in St. Peter's last summer, but truth be told, I felt that way when I celebrated Mass this past Sunday in my parent's small little church. We must embrace the gifts our Savior left us to remind us of his abiding presence, and with Christ at our side we draw the necessary strength to ignore the negative forces of the world to embrace the mission He left each and every one of us.
As I prepare to preach, feed, and minister to a holy people that I have not met but that I am sure have been praying for me as much as I have been praying for them, I feel re-energized, emboldened, and excited to once again take up the sacred work of the Gospel as I have done at each of the parishes I have been blessed to serve. On this Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, we realize that our task as Christians is simply to provide the world with the answer to the question that Christ posed to the disciples in today's gospel: "But who do you say that I am? (Mat 16:15)."