The Chair of St. Peter the Apostle
Our Lenten readings are interrupted by a feast named The Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle which celebrates Peter taking pastoral responsibility for the Church of Rome. Considering Peter as the first Bishop of Rome, we have the opportunity to reflect on the role of the papacy in the Church, and in particular the pastoral leadership which our current Pontiff, Francis, has brought to the Petrine ministry. From the moment of Pope Francis’ election as Pope, he has time and time again reminded us to concentrate on the essential teachings of the Gospel as we live our Christian faith. From comparing the Church to a field hospital in which we heal the wounds of people, to encouraging people to live with joy the Gospel message rather than looking as people living in Lent without Easter, Pope Francis has challenged us on numerous levels. Above all in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is stressing the essential attribute of the ministry of Jesus which is mercy. In the Gospel story for today, Jesus asks a question of Peter that can be asked of us, “But who do you say that I am?” This question allows us to consider who Jesus truly is in our lives and how our understanding of Jesus should be deepened in light of the exhortations of Pope Francis these past three years.
Peter, knowing his own sinfulness, initially resisted Jesus’ call to discipleship. Yet Jesus invites Peter to follow anyway and is later given a leadership role. Peter experienced himself as a sinner, but loved, and Pope Francis, being formed as a Jesuit in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, enthusiastically preaches that this mercy of God revealed in Jesus extends to all people and that we are all loved sinners. Perhaps on this feast day commemorating the Bishop of Rome, we would do well to meditate on the essential teaching of Jesus, which is mercy. May our prayer be the same as Pope Francis:
Prayer“Lord Jesus Christ, You have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees You sees Him. Show us Your face and we will be saved. Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief. Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that You spoke to the Samaritan woman: ‘If you knew the gift of God!’” Amen.
Fr. Brian Cummings, S.S.E. ’86, Director of Edmundite Campus Ministry