Scripture: 1Pet5,1-4; Resp. Psalm: Ps23,1-6; Gosp. Accl.: Mt16,18; Gospel: Mt16,13-19
Today is the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, that is, the liturgical memorial of that important day in the life of the Church when Christ the Lord gave the fisherman Peter from Galilee the authority to shepherd His flock in His name. It celebrates that authority that our Lord entrusted to this feeble Galilean, to lead the entire flock in charity.
Today's feast also celebrates the same privilege and authority that our Lord gave to Peter's successors as visible signs of unity in the universal Church down through the ages.
That power was entrusted to Peter at Caesarea Philippi. Our Lord asked His disciples who the people said the Son of man was. They gave various answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets. It was Peter who answered when our Lord asked who the disciples thought He was.
On the strength of Peter's confession of faith that our Lord was the Christ, the Son of the living God, our Lord declared Simon was blessed because what he declared was not revealed to him by flesh and blood but by His Father in heaven and as a result declared that he was Peter and on this rock He would build His Church and the power of the underworld would not prevail against it.
On that occasion, our Lord gave full and extraordinary Apostolic authority to Peter and his successors to lead the brethren in humility. Our Lord gave to him the power of the keys: to bind on earth and it will be considered bound in heaven, to loose on earth and it will be considered loosed in heaven.
The authority our Lord gave to Peter and his successors is one to be exercised in charity for the good of the flock. This is why our First Reading today from the first letter of Peter clarifies what leadership is all about in the Church and to what end leadership is directed.
The one who is privileged to be a leader in the Church of God has an onerous responsibility to carry. Leadership in the Church is reserved for responsible service, self giving, self sacrifice, love for the flock of God, giving good example that the flock can follow.
The leader is given the responsibility to tend the flock of God with total disinterestedness. They are to do it willingly and without any constraint, in full freedom of spirit. They are to lead by the example of their lives. They are never to put themselves forward for shameful personal gain. They are never to dominate or oppress the flock because the flock does not belong to them in the first instance.
They are to recognize always and everywhere that the flock belongs to Christ the Lord. The word of God in today's first reading tells us that leaders who take their responsibilities in this manner will be rewarded with the crown of unfading glory when the chief shepherd appears.
It is thus important to recognize that every Christian leader is actually a servant, one called by Christ to fulfill His mandate. When a leader forgets this, his service becomes self praise and self promotion that yields him no reward.
On this day, we are invited to pray for our leaders that day by day they may have the mind of Christ who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. We are invited to pray for the pope, the successor of St. Peter on the Chair of Apostolic authority and service, that he may continue to be the visible sign of unity of the entire flock of Christ.
Let us pray: "Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter's confession of faith." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.