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.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 : Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them You are John the Baptist, for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 : Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 : Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
1 Peter 5 : 1-4

I now address myself to those elders among you; I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, hoping to share the Glory that is to be revealed.

Shepherd the flock which God has entrusted to you, guarding it not out of obligation but willingly for God’s sake; not as one looking for a reward but with a generous heart; do not lord it over those in your care, rather be an example to your flock.

Then, when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will be given a crown of unfading glory.

Monday, 22 February 2016 : 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 we celebrate a great feast day of the Church of Rome, that is the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, the Patron Saint of Rome, the Heart of Christendom and the seat of the Pope as St. Peter’s successor as the Vicar of Christ on earth. The chair of St. Peter represents his teaching and magisterial authority as the one to whom God had given authority and power as we witnessed in the Scripture readings of today.

The authority of a bishop, leaders of God’s faithful and His flock is represented by his seat, called the Cathedra, which usually is placed in a church which is then called the Cathedral because of the presence of the bishop’s seat there, and that place is the heart of the individual dioceses and archdioceses. And in the same way therefore, the Cathedra Sancti Petri, the seat representing the authority of St. Peter the Apostle is in Rome, in the Cathedral of the Popes.

But the seat itself, as in the physical seat is only a representation of the true authority given by Christ to St. Peter and to his successors on earth. As we heard in the Gospel today, of the moment when Jesus Christ our Lord granted to Peter the authority and power over all of the sheep and flocks of the Lord, as the one in whom the whole Church would be established upon, upon the faith of St. Peter, the rock of faith.

Jesus told him, that he is to be the foundation upon which God would build His Church on earth, with the phrase, Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam Meam, meaning, ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.’ And He mentioned how not even the gates of hell could prevail against it, and He shall grant him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the authority over us all mankind, that whoever is bound, will be bound in heaven, and those loosened will be lost forever.

Such was the authority given to St. Peter the Apostle, and he and many of his successors carried their duties and responsibilities with commitment and true devotion. Not all of his successors had been faithful, but most had devoted themselves to lead the flocks of the Lord and all of the faithful towards God and towards salvation away from their sins and damnation.

But was St. Peter’s faith exemplary and perfect? Was he perfectly holy and beyond reproach all of his life? No, he was not. He was just a simple and poor fisherman doing his trade at the shores of the Lake of Galilee when the Lord came to him and some others on one day and called him to follow Him. He stumbled quite a few times during the time when he followed Jesus in His mission and works around Judea and Galilee.

Yes, St. Peter was not a perfect man, and neither was he a great, mighty or rich man. He had nothing save for his fishing boat, and even that he left behind when he decided to follow the Lord, abandoning everything for His sake. He betrayed the Lord on one important occasion, when he denied Him for fear of persecution by the Jewish authorities, when these people went to arrest Him. He denied his Lord not just once, but even three times.

And yet, God forgave St. Peter and chose him to be the tool of His work, and not just any tool, but the primary and greatest tool of His work on earth, to be His sole chief representative and leader of all the faithful in His Church. Why is this so, brethren? That is because, God Who knows all the things in one’s hearts and minds, in one’s souls and flesh, knows all things, and knows the faith in each people, and in St. Peter, He found a great faith, unshaken and tested by many trials of doubts and sufferings.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have to know is that, God does not despise sinners like us. What He despises are all the sins that we have committed, all the wicked and dark things that we have done in His presence and in the presence of men alike. God hates the sins and not the sinners. He wants us to be reconciled with Him, and to be cleansed from our sins.

Those sins are what separated us from Him and from His grace, and it is these sins that we need to cast away, far far away from us in order for us to find our way to an eventual and complete reunion with our loving God. God chose the ordinary ones who wanted to love Him and devote themselves to Him, and He shall transform these into His greatest servants.

In this season of Lent, today’s feast of the Chair of St. Peter reminded us that, if we are faithful, and if we persevere, even against the rejection of the world and resisting its persecution, enduring pain and suffering for God’s sake, then there is a great hope waiting for all of us. God is looking forward to the conversion of sinners, and there is no greater joy for the Angels and saints in heaven then the conversion of even a once lost soul, who returns to God’s grace.

Let us therefore put our trust in the Lord through His Church, and let us all help support the works of the Church, which God Himself had established on the firm foundation of faith of St. Peter the Apostle, a faith which in itself was once weak and unstable, but which had undergone trials and tribulations, and in God, he was strengthened, and ended up bringing great glory to the Lord. We too can follow in his footsteps and do our best to be faithful to Him.

May the Lord bless us all, forgive us all our sins, and strengthen ever our love and commitment for Him, that through our many works and devotions in this world, we may show forth the truth about God to the nations, and walk in the footsteps of the Apostles to bring forth His Good News into the world. God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Monday, 22 February 2016 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, after Jesus rebuked the Pharisees who asked for a sign from Him, He came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them You are John the Baptist, for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Monday, 22 February 2016 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.