“Where are you, Caesar?” | Homily for the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul 2018

A lot of you have been asking, so let me just tell you all at once: I’m settling in just fine, thank you for asking.

I have always loved this Cathedral, and being able to serve here is a dream. Since I first came here some seven years ago, I have loved walking through the hallway and looking at all of the displays of memorabilia and Cathedral history. One of my favorite things is the quote on the wall from the first rector, Monsignor Hoover, during his speech at the groundbreaking of this place, speaking in honor of Father Francis Scanlan, our founding pastor:

They will look upon the wrought substance of it and say, ‘Look what our fathers built for us!’

The same affection is due to our saints today, Ss. Peter and Paul, those great Apostles of Rome. The stories of these men in the Acts of Apostles, and their own writings in the New Testament, are not pious fairy tales but accounts of their lives and ministry, of the things they did to ensure that the faith would be preached to every corner of the earth.

Peter, jailed and beaten and eventually crucified upside down and buried on Vatican Hill. Paul, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, stranded, and beheaded. Their work brought the Gospel and conversion to the heart of the Roman empire, and their blood watered the streets of the Eternal City ensuring that faith would bloom and grow.

Before he died, Francis Cardinal George would come to the seminary and speak to the seminarians. One of my favorite stories he told was after the conclave elected Pope Francis, Cardinal George was standing on the side balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica looking over the city of Rome and asked, “Where are you, Caesar?” The empire that persecuted Christians and tried to silence them no longer exists; when one looks out over the city of Rome, he doesn’t see temples to Saturn or Caesar, but the cross of Christ atop a myriad of Churches.

Where are you, Caesar? Because all I see is Christ! I see only the cross of Jesus, rising in victory over the tomb of Christ’s Rock. Where are you, Caesar? All I see is the blood of martyrs and saints flowing through your streets, giving life and breath and courage to the ones you thought you drove away.

The Old Testament speaks so often of the posterity of the Jewish Fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We are the posterity of these holy men and we are the posterity of these Father’s of our Church, Peter and Paul. They were the Apostles of Rome and because of them that city still means everything to the world.

We are called to imitate them in their faith, and in their way of life. Because they had met the Risen Christ, the living Jesus, everything they had was given to Him. These are the Apostles of Rome, and we are grateful for what they built for us.

Who will be the Apostles of Joliet, bringing Jesus Christ to this place?

Who will be the Apostles of Joliet? I pray that it will be you, and that it will be me.