Boston, Mass., Jun 29, 2023 / 09:11 am (CNA).
In Pope Francis’ Angelus address Thursday on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Holy Father reflected on the different meanings of the first pope’s name, which he said can mean “rock, stone, or pebble.”
First, Pope Francis reflected on Peter as “rock,” which is how Jesus identifies the first-century saint in today’s Gospel passage from Matthew 16:13–19.
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it,” Jesus says to Peter in the passage after Peter correctly identifies him as the Messiah.
Pope Francis said to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square that “Peter is a rock: There are many times when he is strong and steady, genuine and generous.”
“He leaves everything to follow Jesus; he recognizes Christ, the Son of the living God; he dives into the sea to go quickly toward the Risen One,” the Holy Father said.
“Then, he boldly and courageously proclaims Jesus in the temple, before and after being arrested and flogged,” he said.
Pope Francis notes that according to tradition, St. Peter was martyred in Rome, where the Vatican is located today.
“Peter, however, is also a stone: He is a rock and also a stone, able to offer support to others — a stone that, founded on Christ, acts as a support to the brothers and sisters for the building up of the Church,” he said.
Pope Francis said that Peter cares for the suffering and promotes the Gospel message.
“He is ‘stone,’ a reliable point of reference for the entire community,” Pope Francis said.
Then Pope Francis reflected on Peter as “pebble,” remarking that “his littleness emerges often.”
“At times he does not understand what Jesus is doing; when confronted with Jesus’ arrest, Peter allows fear to overtake him and denies Jesus, then repents and weeps bitterly, but he does not find the courage to stand under the cross,” Pope Francis said.
Peter locked himself in the upper room with the other disciples out of fear of being captured, when Jesus was arrested, he said.
Pope Francis gives his Angelus address June 29, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis added that Peter “is embarrassed to be with converted pagans,” noting that St. Paul holds him accountable for this attitude.
The Holy Father said that “in the end, according to the quo vadis tradition, he tries to flee when faced with martyrdom but meets Jesus on the road and regains the courage to turn back.”
“This is all in Peter: the strength of the rock, the reliability of the stone, and the littleness of a simple pebble,” Pope Francis said.
Peter “is not superman,” he said, adding that “he is a man like us, like every one of us who says ‘yes’ generously to Jesus in his imperfection.”
God is the one who strengthens Peter, Paul, and all the saints with his grace and mercy, Pope Francis said.
“And it is with this true humanity that the Spirit forms the Church. Peter and Paul were real people. And today, more than ever, we need real people,” he said.
Pope Francis then challenged the crowd to reflect on their own lives.
“From the rock: Is there ardor, zeal, passion for the Lord and for the Gospel in us? Or is there something that easily crumbles? And then, are we stones, not stumbling blocks, but the kind with which the Church can be constructed?”
“Do we work for unity, are we interested in others, especially in the weakest?” he asked.
“Finally, thinking of the pebble: Are we aware of our littleness? And above all, in our weakness, do we entrust ourselves to the Lord, who accomplishes great things through those who are humble and sincere?”
Pope Francis then called upon Mary under her title Queen of Apostles to “help us imitate the strength, the generosity, and the humility of Sts. Peter and Paul.”
Following the Angelus, Pope Francis announced greetings to the Pro Loco Association of Rome, which organized a flower festival, some of which were displayed in St. Peter’s Square.
He also called for continued prayer for the people of Ukraine, “who are in my heart every day.”
Pope Francis also recognized the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which he said “participated in today’s celebration,” adding that “I send an embrace to my dear brother, His Holiness Bartholomew.”
Before concluding, he sent greetings to all pilgrims present, some of whom came from places across the globe such as Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, Poland, and the U.S.