Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, apostle
(I Peter 5:1-4; Matthew 16:13-19)
It was reported recently that the card Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger carried in his wallet authorizing the transplanting of his organs was no longer valid. The reason is not a change in the Church’s acceptance of organ donation, but the fact that when a man becomes pope his body is no longer his own to dispose of as he sees fit. Rather, it belongs to the Church. This is a small sacrifice in comparison with the others that modern popes are called to make.
The reading from the First Letter of Peter today underscores the pope’s and, indeed, all priests’ need of humility. It expressly says that they are not to lord it over the faithful as this would give counter-testimony to Christ who humbled himself to the point of undergoing unjust execution. Nor are they to seek favors for their work as this would undermine their credibility. More positively, they are to look after and encourage the faithful with eagerness. After all, only joyful care will win the hearts of more and more people to Christ. Especially the Vicar of Christ, for whom there is no retirement plan, will necessarily wear himself out under such responsibilities. His consolation, of course, is eternal glory upon the Lord’s return.