Saturday, 22 February 2020 : Feast of the 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 with the whole Church the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. It must have been quite bewildering for some of us why the Church chose to celebrate the feast of a chair, but in this case, the chair mentioned here as being the Chair of St. Peter, was more than just of any physical chair, for the meaning and significance of this Feast today is tied very much to the history and the foundation of our Church.

For the Chair being referred to here, while it represents the actual chair and seat of the Apostle St. Peter, the Cathedra Sancti Petri which by tradition is the wooden chair encased in gold and enshrined at the Altar of the Chair of the Basilica of St. Peter as the chair which St. Peter himself once used as his Cathedra, it also symbolically represents his teaching authority and the powers which God has entrusted to St. Peter as the Chief Apostle and His Vicar on earth.

Just like for the bishops of the Church, who has their seat of authority, or the Cathedra located at the church which is then named and known as the Cathedral of their respective dioceses, St. Peter as the chief of all the bishops and all the disciples of the Lord also has his Cathedra, both as the actual seat as well as the symbolic authority of his leadership as the shepherd of the whole entire Universal Church, which we celebrate and focus on today.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Peter, we heard of the Apostle speaking to the faithful with regards to the roles and responsibilities of the elders or the bishops in the community of the faithful. And St. Peter in today’s passage addressed those same elders or bishops directly with the exhortation and reminder that they, as the shepherds of God’s flock must lead God’s people to His truth and salvation, and they must labour hard and give their best for the sake of the flock entrusted to them.

It was through the authority which Christ has entrusted to St. Peter that the latter, as the Vicar of the one and true Head of the Church, and as the Shepherd of all the shepherds of God’s flock, that St. Peter spoke, inspiring those bishops who had been appointed to succeed the works of the Apostles and the first bishops of the Church. That was how the Church of God began and continued to flourish in its very beginning, as more and more people came to follow God and more and more people were called to serve them as deacons, priests and bishops.

The role which St. Peter played in the early history of the Church was indeed very crucial and important as several occasions in the Acts of the Apostles showed us how St. Peter was clearly the leader of the Apostles and the disciples, settling disputes and problems within the growing Christian communities, and as the one indeed who had been entrusted by Christ Himself with the governance of His Church in this world.

This was what we heard in our Gospel passage today, in the account of the establishment of the Church by God, through the words He Himself had spoken, as He was acknowledged by St. Peter as the Son of the Living God and Messiah of the world. The Lord Jesus spoke to St. Peter, saying that thus, he is Peter, whose name means ‘Rock’, and upon that same ‘Rock’ He would establish His Church that will prevail over all trials and tribulations that even the gates of hell cannot stand against it.

And Christ also entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven to St. Peter, which is now the symbol of Papal authority of the two crossed keys, representing what Christ had said, that the very authority to loosen or bind souls on earth and in heaven has been given to His Church through St. Peter, His Vicar, the first Pope and Bishop of Rome, as the leader of the entire of the whole Universal Church supported by the other Apostles who are the pillars of the Church.

We have to also note how Christ chose this man, St. Peter, who was then named Simon, son of John, who was the most unlikely of candidates to be chosen for such an important role. Simon was merely a poor, illiterate and brash fisherman from the lake of Galilee, whom the Lord called to follow Him. Simon followed, and Jesus gave him a new name, that is Peter, a symbolic grant of a new life and vocation, by which indeed later on he would be the ‘fishers of men’ together with his fellow Apostles and disciples.

Through the Holy Spirit, God guided St. Peter and turned him from the illiterate, uneducated and emotional man he was once before, cutting off the ears off a Temple servant in anger and denied knowing the Lord three times, into the great Apostle and Pope he was to become, as he gave his life to the service of God and ministered to the people throughout his many years of journeying to many parts of the world and resolving disputes between communities of the faithful.

Today therefore, we commemorate this great celebration and Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle as the reminder for each and everyone of us that our Church is indeed the one that Christ Himself has established in this world, as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. And we therefore recall this very important Communion that we have as one Church and one Body of Christ, as we are united with St. Peter and his successors, our Popes and Vicars of Christ, who sit on the Cathedra or throne of St. Peter, as the Shepherd of shepherds of God’s people, entrusted with the care of the Universal Church.

Therefore today, let us all pray for our current Pope, His Holiness Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome. Let us pray for him that he will be able to carry on his ministry as the successor of the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter, in guiding the entire Universal Church forward with the support of the bishops and priests, as well as all the lay members of the Church. Let us also support our Pope and the Church in our ever growing efforts in evangelisation and missionary works, in our numerous charitable outreach and works, and the many other efforts of the Church.

May the Lord continue to bless His Church and provide for us in everything, particularly through difficult and challenging moments. May He bless our Pope with courage and strength, with faith and perseverance as He once blessed St. Peter, the Prince and Chief of the Apostles. St. Peter, Holy Apostle, Pope and Vicar of Christ, pray for us all. Amen.

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