Readings: 1 Peter 5:1-4, Ps. 23, Matthew 16:13-19

“You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18)

Today, we celebrate an important feast: the Chair of St. Peter, also known as the office of the Pope. Jesus Christ established this office when he gave St. Peter the Keys (i.e., the authority to bind or loose) of God’s Kingdom. Having reposed such enormous power on St. Peter (and his subsequent successors), Jesus, knowing that Peter was prone to human weakness, added: “And the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church.” Today’s readings provide some vital lessons for reflection.

1. Leadership Is Not Ownership: Even though Jesus gave Peter the power of governance, Jesus remains the owner and builder of the church: “On this rock, I will build my Church.” The Pope is nothing more than a manager, a steward of God’s flock, just as every ordained minister is a servant of the souls entrusted to their care. Hence, our responsorial psalm today reminds us that “The Lord (not the Pope) is our shepherd.

Not long after this event, Jesus addressed Peter: “Get behind me, Satan.” Did Peter cease to be Pope after this statement? No. This brings us to the issue of infallibility. A simple way to understand infallibility is to reflect on the incarnation. While Jesus remained God, He humbled himself to the point of taking our weak human nature. In the same way, while Jesus remains the owner and builder of the church, He is incarnated in the person of the Pope.

2. God Speaks Through the Pope: Just as many found it difficult to believe that Jesus (who they saw in human flesh) is God, it takes faith to believe that the Pope is a visible instrument of Christ’s leadership. The Pope may be imperfect as a man, but when he speaks on matters of doctrine, he is infallible because he does not speak of his own accord. We hear Jesus say in today’s Gospel passage: “Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you but my Father who is in heaven.” Our firm belief is that even in these trying times, God continues to speak to us through the Pope.

3. Leadership is all about Service: In today’s first reading, Peter writes to the church elders, saying: “Tend the flock of God that is in your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly…” St. Paul throws more light on this point when he writes: “We brought nothing into the world so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:7-11)

4. Never Be a Dictator but Be an Example to the Flock: Flowing from the fact that Jesus is the owner and builder of the church, those occupying offices in the church must never forget that they are servants, not lords. As Jesus noted: “Whoever would be first among you must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35). As Pope, Peter retraced his steps and accepted Paul’s rebuke concerning his treatment of Gentile converts.

In conclusion, today’s celebration is to pray for the Pope and those who share in the community that makes up the Papacy. As we have seen already, left to their strength, they cannot do anything, but with God’s power at work, they remain shepherds leading God’s flock in the right direction.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, teach me to lead by service. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Saint Peter's Chair - Feast. Bible Study: 1 Peter 5:1-4, Ps. 23, Matthew 16:13-19).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu