Thursday, 8 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 16 : 13-23

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 Barjona, 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.”

Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. From that day, Jesus began to make it clear to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; that He would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law; and that He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to reproach Him, “Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

Thursday, 22 February 2018 : 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 commemorate together the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, one of the celebrations commemorating the leader of Christ’s Apostles and His vicar on earth, besides that of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul in the month of June. On this day, we are focusing on the Chair or indeed, better known as the Cathedra of St. Peter, the first Bishop of Rome and Pope.

Some of us might be wondering, why is it that we celebrate the feast of a chair, even if it is the Chair of St. Peter himself as the Vicar of Christ. That is because we must understand the importance of chair in the historical context of the Church. A chair is historically related as the symbol of power and authority, much as thrones are for kings and rulers. When a king or ruler is enthroned, he or she symbolically receives the power and authority to reign over his or her kingdom.

Similarly therefore, the chair for the bishops of the Church symbolises their authority, the authority to teach the Gospels and the truth of God to the people, as well as their administrative and spiritual authority over the flock and the people entrusted under his care. And throughout the dioceses in the world, there is a particular chair in each of the dioceses, in a particular church, named the cathedra as mentioned, as the seat of the bishop’s authority, and the churches with the cathedra are called cathedrals.

There is in fact an actual physical cathedra belonging to St. Peter in the Vatican, at St. Peter’s Basilica, where the chair that is supposed to be St. Peter’s actual chair of teaching is placed in the most prominent place above the high altar on the eastern end of the Basilica, underneath the famous and magnificent dove imagery representing the Holy Spirit. This signifies the authority of the Pope as the successors of St. Peter as the Bishop of Rome and as leader of the entire universal Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, nonetheless, the celebration today is much more than just the celebration of a physical and actual chair possessed by St. Peter at the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican. In fact, this celebration is more about the authority which the Lord Himself has delegated to His vicar, St. Peter as well as to his successors as Bishop of Rome and Pope, in leading all the faithful people of God, His flock and faithful ones.

But if we imagine that St. Peter is someone who was amazing and great, glorious and mighty, then we ought to remember that he was once a mere poor fisherman trying out his best to make a living by fishing in the lake of Gennesaret or Galilee. It was as a poor, illiterate fisherman that the Lord Jesus encountered him and his brother, St. Andrew the Apostle. And many other Apostles and disciples of the Lord also came from humble and unremarkable origins.

Yet, the Lord chose them and called them to follow Him, and for some among them, He entrusted them to become the most important among all of His disciples as the Apostles because they had qualities in them which the Lord discovered, and which He deemed to be worthy. It was not us who make ourselves worthy, but God who makes those whom He called to be worthy.

And the tasks He entrusted to the Apostles were not easy ones, as challenges and difficulties were abound. They had to face persecutions and oppressions from various sources, from those who were against the Church, the teachings of the Lord and against whatever good works that they had done among the people. They had to endure prison, arrests and torture, sufferings and rejections from time to time.

St. Peter himself had to endure the same difficulties, as he travelled from place to place establishing the foundations of the Church in those places. When he was in Rome, Christians there were persecuted heavily at the reign of the Emperor Nero, and together with St. Paul, St. Peter himself was martyred during the reign of that Emperor. He suffered with his flock and remained true to his calling as a shepherd of the Lord.

He remained committed to the end, and humbly even requesting the Romans who were about to crucify him to put him on the cross upside down, as he felt it was not right for him to be crucified and died in the same manner and way as his Lord and Master. Through all of these examples, St. Peter had shown us how he is truly a devout and hardworking servant of God, who places his responsibility to the Lord above everything else.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember all the things that the Apostles had done, especially St. Peter in all the works he had done. Through him, the Lord had established His Church in this world, built upon the strong foundation of faith which he had, and upon the faith and commitment of the Apostles. But their hard works were not yet complete, and there are still many things that we can do in this world, fulfilling the vocation to which we have been called to.

Each and every one of us as Christians ought to follow the examples of our holy predecessors. And as we are all part of the one Church of God, which is the same Church that He established upon the foundation of His Apostles, especially St. Peter the Apostle, let us all do our respective parts, in order to work together as one Church, under the authority of the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, who themselves are united to the successor of St. Peter, our Pope, the leader of the Universal Church.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless the Church He has built, so that we may always stay together and remain strong in our faith and in our dedication to serve the Lord, and preach more and more of the Good News to the people who have not yet heard of it. Let us all deepen our faith and commit ourselves more wholeheartedly to fulfil the mission which the Lord had entrusted to His Church. May the Lord bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 22 February 2018 : Feast of the 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.”

Thursday, 22 February 2018 : 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.

Thursday, 22 February 2018 : Feast of the 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.

Pope Benedict XVI’s message at his last General Audience : St. Peter’s Square, Wednesday, 27 February 2013

“Like the Apostle Paul in the Biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart that I have to especially thank God who guides and builds up the Church, who plants His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His People. At this moment my heart expands and embraces the whole Church throughout the world and I thank God for the news that, in these years of my Petrine ministry, I have received about the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and for the love that truly circulates in the Body of the Church, making it to live in the love and the hope that opens us to and guides us towards the fullness of life, towards our heavenly homeland.”

“I feel that I am carrying everyone with me in prayer in this God-given moment when I am collecting every meeting, every trip, every pastoral visit. I am gathering everyone and everything in prayer to entrust it to the Lord: so that we may be filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding in order to live in a manner worthy of the Lord and His love, bearing fruit in every good work.”

“At this moment I have great confidence because I know, we all know, that the Gospel’s Word of truth is the strength of the Church; it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews, bearing fruit, wherever the community of believers hears it and welcomes God’s grace in truth and in love. This is my confidence, this is my joy.”

“When, on 19 April almost eight years ago I accepted to take on the Petrine ministry, I had the firm certainty that has always accompanied me: this certainty for the life of the Church from the Word of God. At that moment, as I have already expressed many times, the words that resounded in my heart were: Lord, what do You ask of me? It is a great weight that You are placing on my shoulders but, if You ask it of me, I will cast my nets at your command, confident that You will guide me, even with all my weaknesses. And eight years later I can say that the Lord has guided me. He has been close to me. I have felt His presence every day. It has been a stretch of the Church’s path that has had moments of joy and light, but also difficult moments. I felt like St. Peter and the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of Galilee.”

“The Lord has given us many days of sunshine and light breezes, days when the fishing was plentiful, but also times when the water was rough and the winds against us, just as throughout the whole history of the Church, when the Lord seemed to be sleeping. But I always knew that the Lord is in that boat and I always knew that the boat of the Church is not mine, not ours, but is His. And the Lord will not let it sink. He is the one who steers her, of course also through those He has chosen because that is how He wanted it. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. And that is why my heart today is filled with gratitude to God, because He never left—the whole Church or me—without His consolation, His light, or His love.”

“We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired precisely in order to strengthen our faith in God in a context that seems to relegate it more and more to the background. I would like to invite everyone to renew their firm trust in the Lord, to entrust ourselves like children to God’s arms, certain that those arms always hold us up and are what allow us to walk forward each day, even when it is a struggle. I would like everyone to feel beloved of that God who gave His Son for us and who has shown us His boundless love. I would like everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer, which can be recited every morning, say: ‘I adore you, my God and I love you with all my heart. Thank you for having created me, for having made me Christian…’ Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith. It is the most precious thing, which no one can take from us! Let us thank the Lord for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but awaits us to also love Him!”

“It is not only God who I wish to thank at this time. A pope is not alone in guiding Peter’s barque, even if it is his primary responsibility. I have never felt alone in bearing the joy and the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed at my side so many people who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. First of all, you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your advice, and your friendship have been precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my secretary of state who has accompanied me faithfully over the years; the Secretariat of State and the whole of the Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in their various areas, serve the Holy See. There are many faces that are never seen, remaining in obscurity, but precisely in their silence, in their daily dedication in a spirit of faith and humility, they were a sure and reliable support to me.”
 
“A special thought goes to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I cannot forget my Brothers in the episcopate and in the priesthood, consecrated persons, and the entire People of God. In my pastoral visits, meetings, audiences, and trips I always felt great care and deep affection, but I have also loved each and every one of you, without exception, with that pastoral love that is the heart of every pastor, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I held each of you in prayer, with a father’s heart.”

“I wish to send my greetings and my thanks to all: a pope’s heart extends to the whole world. And I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes the great family of Nations present here. Here I am also thinking of all those who work for good communication and I thank them for their important service.”

“At this point I would also like to wholeheartedly thank all of the many people around the world who, in recent weeks, have sent me touching tokens of concern, friendship, and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone. I feel this again now in such a great way that it touches my heart. The Pope belongs to everyone and many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world’s notables—from heads of states, from religious leaders, from representatives of the world of culture, etc.”

“But I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their hearts and make me feel their affection, which is born of our being together with Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write to me the way one would write, for example, to a prince or a dignitary that they don’t know. They write to me as brothers and sisters or as sons and daughters, with the sense of a very affectionate family tie. In this you can touch what the Church is—not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian ends, but a living body, a communion of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ who unites us all. Experiencing the Church in this way and being able to almost touch with our hands the strength of His truth and His love is a reason for joy at a time when many are speaking of its decline. See how the Church is alive today!”

“In these last months I have felt that my strength had diminished and I asked God earnestly in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me make the right decision, not for my own good, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its seriousness and also its newness, but with a profound peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, agonized choices, always keeping in mind the good of the Church, not of oneself.”

“Allow me here to return once again to 19 April, 2005. The gravity of the decision lay precisely in the fact that, from that moment on, I was always and for always engaged by the Lord. Always—whoever assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and entirely to everyone, to the whole Church. His life, so to speak, is totally deprived of its private dimension. I experienced, and I am experiencing it precisely now, that one receives life precisely when they give it. Before I said that many people who love the Lord also love St. Peter’s Successor and are fond of him; that the Pope truly has brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion; because he no longer belongs to himself but he belongs to all and all belong to him.”

“’Always’ is also ‘forever’–there is no return to private life. My decision to renounce the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I am not returning to private life, to a life of trips, meetings, receptions, conferences, etc. I am not abandoning the cross, but am remaining beside the Crucified Lord in a new way. I no longer bear the power of the office for the governance of the Church, but I remain in the service of prayer, within St. Peter’s paddock, so to speak. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example to me in this. He has shown us the way for a life that, active or passive, belongs wholly to God’s work.”

“I also thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have received this important decision. I will continue to accompany the Church’s journey through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and His Bride that I have tried to live every day up to now and that I want to always live. I ask you to remember me to God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals who are called to such an important task, and for the new Successor of the Apostle Peter. Many the Lord accompany him with the light and strength of His Spirit.”

“We call upon the maternal intercession of Mary, the Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the entire ecclesial community. We entrust ourselves to her with deep confidence.”

“Dear friends! God guides His Church, always sustaining her even and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the path of the Church and of the world. In our hearts, in the heart of each one of you, may there always be the joyous certainty that the Lord is beside us, that He does not abandon us, that He is near and embraces us with His love. Thank you.”