Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, apostle
(I Peter 5:1-4; Matthew 16:13-19)
St. Peter is depicted with different images in the gospels. At his call as a disciple, he is first seen as a fisherman. Indeed, Jesus tells him that he will become a “fisher of men.” Especially in John’s gospel, Peter is given a very different profession – that of a shepherd. Jesus will tell him to feed his sheep. In today’s gospel Jesus uses another image for Peter; he is the rock on which Jesus will establish his Church.
We could ask, how is Peter like a rock? After all, he appears more like sand when he vacillates in his commitment to Jesus. The answer lies not in any quality that Peter has displayed, but in what God is doing to him. As Peter is inspired by the Holy Spirit to correctly identify Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he will be strengthened to oversee direct the mission of the Church. Certainly Peter has some potential, but he will require special graces to fulfill the tasks of Jesus’ chief steward.
Today we remember Peter precisely as pope. So we also pray for his current successor, Francis. He evidently sees his mission not just as calling attention to the poor but also restoring the credibility of the Church. Many people have turned away from the Church because of priests acting at the same time scandalously and sanctimoniously. Francis has to model and encourage authentic action. At the same time he should convince the world that fulfillment is not found in material prosperity but in loving relationships. Such relationships, of course, find their source and sustenance in knowing Christ.