Today, the Church celebrates Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. Historically, A chair stands as a symbol of power and authority.
So, the Church is not celebrating a chair as a physical object, but the seat of St. Peter as the Shepherd of the Church. The Church through this feast reflects on its divine and apostolic foundation.
In the gospel, Jesus says, “You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church. The words “you are” indicates that Jesus is referring to Peter to be the foundation builder.
The use of the word “my Church” actually indicates that Jesus is the founder of the Church, which Peter is going to be the foundation builder.
So today, the Church celebrates the seat of this authority given to Peter by the Lord whom He appoints today to be the chief shepherd.
“My Church” as used in the gospel shows that Peter is not the founder of the Church but Jesus Christ, but He is the one Jesus entrusts the authority and governance of His Church.
So the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter as we celebrate today, symbolizes the authority, position, power to teach divine truths and the authority he has over the administration and spiritual life of the flock the Lord entrusts to His care.
According to tradition, Peter was brutalized and crucified upside down in Rome by Emperor Nero, A Roman emperor. A pointer to His presence in Rome. Hence tradition refers Him as the first bishop of Rome.
So, the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter refers to this episcopal authority given to Peter by Jesus and shared by his successors and the bishops of the church.
1. In the gospel, Jesus was referring to someone when He said, “You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church”. Jesus himself constitutes Peter as the Chief Father of faith.
Here Jesus speaks of St. Peter as the foundation-stone of the Church, but not a founder of the Church. He is the chief administrator, but not Lord of the Church. The Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus (John 10:11) gives us other shepherds as well (Ephesians 4:11).
2. The gospel also says “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven .” (Matthew 16:19). “I will give you” as the bible states, indicates that Jesus’ statements were directly addressed to Him.
Keys can lock and unlock. The power of the Keys has to do with his administrative authority and guiding the flock in faith. Hence this demands nothing but obedience from the flock.
To disobey the teachings of the Church is also to disobey God. From this power flows the use of spiritual, legislative and administrative powers of the church.
In Mathew 18:17, Jesus says that if one refuses to listen to the Church, He then can be treated like a pagan or tax collector. The Church should be the last hope of the common man and the adjudicator of divine truths. In verse 18, Jesus proclaims that whatever the Church binds and loses is affirmed in heaven.
From this divine power flows the use of sacramental absolution during confession, giving of penance, censures, ex-communication, etc. Here the Lord gives the Church as the institution to guide our faith.
“Binding and loosing” also represents the legislative and judicial powers of the papacy and the bishops (Matthew 18:17-18; John 20:23).
3. In the first reading, we see Peter guiding and advising the elders of the church, and how to guide the flock that are handed to their care. Here, Peter acts by strong implication as to the Chief Shepherd of the church.
4. In all the lists of apostles, Peter’s name occurs first (Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). Matthew even calls him the “first” (10:2). Judas Iscariot is invariably mentioned last.
5. Jesus Christ prays for Peter alone that his “faith may not fail”, and then instructs Him to strengthen the brethren (Luke 22:32).
6. Peter’s words are the first recorded and most important in the upper room before Pentecost (Acts 1:15-22), and he takes the lead in calling for a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:22).
7. The first anathema (Ananias and Sapphira) in the bible was done by Peter and was emphatically affirmed by God (Acts 5:2-11)! He is the first to recognize and refute heresy, in Simon Magus (Acts 8:14-24). Etc.
1. Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter implies that we do not take the Church for granted. We owe nothing to the Church if not our obedience. The Church has the divine authority to teach and to guide.
2. The origin of the Church is not human but divine. We do not have to see everything under the mechanical eyes thinking that one person woke up and began the Church.
Hence the teachings of the Church are divine and not human. We have to abide by them. No one is wiser than the Holy Spirit that guides the Church.
3. Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter indicates that the Church has a source or a root by which we tap our spiritual strength and power which is divine. So no one needs to wake up tomorrow and begin His Church.
The Church is not ours but that of Jesus, and it flows through an apostolic foundation and succession. It is not Mr A’s foundation or Mrs B’s foundation.
4. Finally, this shows that if Christ is the head of the Church, we are His members. And if we are His members, We are one body in Christ.
There should be no division of any sort among the Christian brethren. But today, we have allowed the division to eat deep into our homes and families, in our communities, states and countries. We forget that division, hatred, discrimination should in no way be seen among us.
May God help us to assimilate this truth, give us the grace to obey His Church and lead us to live in unity. Amen.