22 February 2007

PETRUS

Feast of the Chair of Peter
Mt 16:13-19

Jesus asks His disciples today who the people say He is. The disciples report to Him the people’s impressions on Him. That precisely what they are – impressions! But Jesus is not interested how He fares among the crowd. What He is truly concerned about is that they come to know the real He.

If He is interested whether the people know who He really is, He is even more concerned with His disciples knowing Him inside out. Thus, He turns to them and asks them, “But you, who do you say that I am?” Thereupon, the son of Jonah recognizes the Son of God. “You are the Christ,” Simon replies, “the Son of the living God.” Jesus congratulates Simon but gives the credit not to Simon but to His heavenly Father. “Blest are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but My Father in heaven,” proclaims Jesus. Then, Jesus gives Simon a new name and with the new name, a special and specific mission; thereby making Simon’s new name more of an office than a personal tag. “You are Peter,” Jesus tells Simon, “and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.” Thus Simon bar Jonah becomes Simon Peter. Simon the fisherman becomes Simon the Rock.

Today, however, we celebrate not a piece of rock. The liturgical title of today’s feast is “The Feast of the Chair of Peter.” In its deepest essence, our tribute today goes not to the persona of Simon Peter but to the office the Lord has entrusted with him. The Chair of Peter is the “Office of the Rock”. The Office of the Rock is the mission of him who occupies that office to teach and to shepherd the People of God. It is called the Petrine Office. It is an office conferred by Jesus on Simon, and continued in an unbroken line down to the present occupant of that Chair, Joseph Aloysius Ratzinger who has chosen the name Pope Benedict XVI.

Let us pray for Pope Benedict XVI that he may faithfully fulfill the Petrine Office. We offer our Mass today for his intentions, sanctification, and well-being. May he continue to teach us who Jesus really is and to shepherd us with the heart that Jesus truly has. As he sits on the Chair of Peter, may he serve as Peter served the Lord and the Church we both love.

Viva il Papa! Tu es Petrus, Benedictus.

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