Wednesday, 22 February 2017 : Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us celebrate together the great Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. We may be wondering why is it that we celebrate the feast of a chair, but this chair mentioned here is not just a mere physical object, not just merely a chair, but even more importantly, it is the seat of authority of the Apostle St. Peter, whom God had appointed to be the leader of all of His disciples, and to whom He had entrusted the governance and authority over His entire Church.

The Chair of St. Peter refers to the Cathedra of St. Peter, or Cathedra Sancti Petri, the seat of the Episcopal authority of St. Peter as the first Bishop of Rome. And like that of the other bishops, the seat of the bishop or the Cathedra is the symbol of the authority which has been granted over the bishop over the entire flock in the diocese entrusted to his care. But for St. Peter, this authority granted to him is unique in a sense that as the Bishop of Rome, he and his many successors, that is the Popes throughout the ages have been given the authority not just over the Diocese of Rome, but also over the entire Church.

Thus today’s feast has a special significance, as it reminds us of the unity that all of us Christians have with the entire Church, anchored on the person of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, who is the successor of St. Peter the Apostle, on whom God had established His Church. God had established His Church upon the solid rock foundation of St. Peter, whose name Cephas or Kepha in Aramaic, and Petros in Greek means rock.

We may think that God chose great and intellectual men, people with great capabilities and seemingly superhuman abilities. But that is not the way how God chose His servants and those whom He had deemed to be worthy. Men may have all the plans they prepared, and they may have all sorts of things in their mind, but it was not mankind who chose themselves before God, but God Who chose His people. He called those whom He had deemed to be worthy, not by any human standards, but by His standards.

St. Peter and the other members of the Twelve Apostles of our Lord Jesus were a diverse group of people, hailing from different origins and had different character and upbringing. Yet, most if not all of them are similar in one thing, that they, in the sight and opinion of mankind, are those who we commonly least expect to be those who were chosen for such important position.

Some of the Apostles were simple men, some holding positions that brought little prestige and acknowledgement then, even until today, such as fishermen and poor people of little renown. Most of the Apostles were illiterate and uneducated, a fact which we ourselves read in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, when the Pharisees and the elders were astounded at the great wisdom and eloquence at which the supposedly uneducated Apostles carried out the defence and witnessing of their faith.

St. Peter most important of all was a simple fisherman, who if we read the Gospels, is not a particularly faithful person. At times, there were moments when he faced challenges, doubts and weakness in his faith to the Lord. He was among the first of whom Jesus had called and chosen, and throughout his journey with our Lord, we heard of how, he stumbled when he tried to cross to Jesus walking on the water, as he doubted and his faith faltered, and started to sink before Jesus rescued him.

St. Peter also stumbled at Mount Tabor during the Transfiguration, when he wanted to convince Jesus to remain there on top of the mountain, awed by the glory of the Lord revealed to him there, and not wanting to go down to the lands below, to what Jesus had mentioned that He was to face great persecution, to be handed over to the chief priests and suffer death, and His disciples would suffer with Him.

And certainly all of us knew how St. Peter and the other Apostles fell asleep during the time when Jesus told them to stay on guard with Him at the Garden of Gethsemane during His time of agony and suffering, waiting for the betrayer Judas to come and take Him to the chief priests. He was chided with the other Apostles by Jesus, Who told them that while the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Finally, we all know how St. Peter denied Jesus three times during the time when He was incarcerated in the High Priest’s residence. In his fear, St. Peter denied Jesus not just once, but three times when the people around him accused him of being among those who followed Jesus. At that time, when Jesus had been arrested and were undergoing false charges of blasphemy, it was a very difficult time to be found out as those who followed Him, and St. Peter faltered.

Then all of must be wondering as to why Jesus chose St. Peter above all else, to be the one to whom He entrusted His entire Church, the entire body of all His faithful and beloved people to. Should God not have chosen better? Surely there are many more people who are more worthy of the task? This is exactly where what I have spoken about came to apply. It is not what man sees that God sees, and God sees faith and goodness where we may have failed to see it.

Even though his faith was weak, wavering, unsteady and shaken at many times, God saw in St. Peter, a heart and soul filled with genuine love and dedication, which is a trait also shared by the other Apostles, save that of Judas Iscariot the betrayer. All of them wavered in their faith, and had shaky belief in the Lord, but they all persevered through and did not give up, unlike Judas Iscariot. They showed the same qualities shared by the many other saints and martyrs of our Church.

God saw the goodness in them, and He forgave them their trespasses and failures, just as how Jesus forgave St. Peter three times after He had risen from the dead. It was a clear sign how Jesus had forgiven St. Peter and his denial, and his previous shortcomings. He knew just how much St. Peter loved Him, and just how far he would give himself to stand up and defend his faith in Him.

He gave him and the other Apostles His Holy Spirit, the Helper and strength through which He transformed these humble, uneducated and seemingly inconsequential and insignificant people, into steadfast and solid rocks of faith, the principal one which was the great faith of St. Peter, whom the Lord appointed to be the leader over all of the other Apostles, and by the virtue of that leadership, and the command which Jesus had given him, to take care of all the flock of the Lord.

Through all of these things which we have listened and pondered on this day, all of us can see how, first of all, God chose seemingly ordinary and insignificant man and woman, to be those whom He had chosen and blessed. He chose even sinners and those considered by many to be worthless and wicked, knowing that if these people repent, not only that they would be capable of truly great deeds, but at the same time, more soul would return to the Lord and be reconciled with Him.

Many saints were themselves great sinners, and they were called through repentance and much grief, having regretted their sins and wickedness, and therefore became the new parts of the Church, enriching it with their newfound faith and zeal. In the footsteps of the Apostles they have walked and toiled to make sure that the works which God had begun through His Apostles would be continued, that is the conversion of all mankind and the salvation of all souls. Through all of these, all of their contributions and works, they have glorified God and became examples for us all to follow.

Thus, all of us today need to continue the works of the Apostles, and united under the leadership of the Pope, who is the successor of St. Peter the Apostle, we need to continue to bring the Church through this modern day and time, and continue to preach the Good News of God, and call many others to repentance. The Lord had established His firm foundation on St. Peter, who was a simple man with wavering faith, but whom God had affirmed and strengthened, and thereafter became the solid rock foundation of the Church.

Let us all grow stronger in faith, by placing our complete trust in the Lord, and obey Him in all of His laws, commandments and precepts. Let us uphold the entirety of the teachings of the Church, through which we obediently follow the commandments of the Lord, just as He had taught these to His own Apostles and disciples. Let us all pray also for the intention of the entire Universal Church, and also for the Pope, our Vicar and leader, the Vicar of Christ on earth.

May the Lord bless us all, His Church on earth, and also our Pope, bishops, priests and all who had given themselves to the service of the Gospel and for the salvation of all mankind. May He strengthen our faith, that even though we may falter as St. Peter once did, but having put together our hope and faith in the Lord, we may grow stronger in faith, and become immovable like a rock, with steadfast and undying devotion as St. Peter and the other Apostles had in their Lord and Master, our God. St. Peter the Apostle, Vicar of Christ and Shepherd of all God’s people, pray for us and for God’s Church. Amen.

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