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Homily for the Feast of Chair of Saint Peter

SMM India
Published by in Feast Day Homiles · 21 February 2021
Tags: F.H.2
Homily for the Feast of Chair of Saint Peter(FEB 22)
Today, we celebrate the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. When we talk about the Chair of St. Peter, we don’t mean piece of wood or furniture. When a chair is set aside for an individual, it has some additional meaning. When such chairs are occupied by highly regarded people, it has special meaning. It reminds us of a particular office.
The feast of the Cahir of Saint Peter began around the 4th Century. In this celebration, it is the role and office of Saint Peter within the Church we are celebrating. It has been a source of authority and unity for over 2,000 years. Today, that office is held by Pope Francis.
There is an invitation for all of us through the first reading, to be the true shepherds of the flock by leading them by example. It is a call to tend the flock after the example of the great Shepherd. The elders of the community are called to bear witness to the suffering of Christ. In this task, they are promised the ‘unfading crown of glory’.
We celebrate this feast for several reasons: This chair stands for the Pope’s role as shepherd or bishop of the universal Church. In this feast, the authority of the universal bishop is celebrated. This authority is given by Jesus to Peter to lead and guide the Church in Jesus’ place. We have in the Gospel, in Mt 16:18 Jesus tells Peter: “you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church…” This authority is passed down and exercised by the pope, just as the authority and role of the apostles, exercised by the bishops in union with the pope. The present Pope is recognizing this role as servant-authority uniting and guiding the Church members. He shows his role as the coordinator and animator of the faith. Though this role is that of supreme teacher and authority in the church, he uses it to serve the faithful. In this feast, we also celebrate the unity of the independent Churches under the Roman Rite. Even if not all the churches recognize this fact of unity, ecumenically, many of the churches accept the value of the Chair of Saint Peter. But the catholic community celebrates this feast as a sign of authority and unity that Jesus created for his Church on earth. At the same time, the catholic community recognizes that it is the Holy Spirit who truly runs the Church.
When we truly recognize the work of the spirit, we are to be open to the ‘Pentecostal Church’. In this direction of reflection, we can recall what Joseph Ratzinger (emeritus Pope Benedict VI) has said,” A Church in which the Spirit rules, and not the letter, a Church in which understanding breaks down the fences we erect against each other. We are impatient with a Church that seems so unpentecostal, so unspiritual, so narrow, and so fearful.”
There is no power or authority without responsibility, and he who accepts the one cannot escape or evade the other - Haile Selassie. As we recognize the authority, unity, and service in this feast, we also see that it is a mission entrusted to Peter, and today, it is to be carried on in the present Apostolic succession. But unfortunately, the Church has gone through deep crises and scandals, heresies, and schisms. This means, that the Church has deviated itself from the true sense of this power and authority. Therefore, it is a challenge in this present time for the successor of Peter, to keep the Church on Rock that is once built. It is a challenge placed before us to recognize the authority with humility, leadership with service, unity with diversity. We call on the Master to strengthen the faith so that the Church will remain on the rock.
Fr. J Joseph SMM

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