Saturday, 2/22/2021, The Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle
Tend the Flock with Humility
First Reading Commentary: 1 Peter 5:1-4
Three times in John 21:15-17, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me.” Each time, Peter answered, “Yes.” Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my lambs…Tend my sheep…Feed my sheep.”
In saying this to Peter, Jesus was reminding Peter that as the leader of the Apostles, he was also the chief shepherd of the church here on earth. It became Peter’s responsibility to take care of the Church making sure that the people of the Church were fed by the Word and the Eucharist. It was up to Peter to lead the Apostles in their ministries as they spread the Word of God and took the sacraments to all nations.
In Peter's first letter, he proclaimed that he was a witness to the sufferings of Christ and that he had a share in the glory which was to be revealed. In other words, Peter testified to Christ and proclaimed his hope of having a place in the Kingdom of Heaven. He also advised and encouraged the other presbyters of the Church to do the same and share in the responsibility of being shepherds of the Church.
The same instruction that Jesus gave Peter, Peter passed on to the presbyters who were the elders. Peter said, “Tend the flock of God in your midst.” Peter was saying that all of the Apostles and other leaders within the Church community were responsible for being good shepherds. If you think about it, because of our calling in baptism to be evangelist, we all share the responsibility of being good shepherds.
Peter told the presbyters that they should be willing and eager to do this, “…as God would have it.” In other words, it was not Peter’s idea but God’s Will that all of us be good shepherds.
The instruction given by Jesus to the Twelve in Matthew 10:8, Peter also passed on to the presbyters when he told them not to take on this responsibility for shameful profit. The simple message is that the Word of God and the sacraments are not for sale and are not to be treated like commodities which are for sale.
Jesus demonstrated to the Apostles that He did not come to be served but to serve. Just before the feast of the Passover at the Last Supper, in John 13:1-20, Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles and said, “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Peter was following that instruction from Jesus and passing it on to the presbyters when he said, “Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.” Not only were the presbyters encouraged to serve; they were also being encouraged to lead with humility as Christ did.
As we follow our call to evangelize and be good shepherds, we must remember that we do not do ourselves or the Lord any favors by ramming our faith down other people’s throats. Instead, we should remember that God in His wisdom gave each of us a free will because God wants us to choose Him.
Christ stood firm in what He had to say but practiced humility because that is His way. We can practice humility in testifying to our faith if we do not look for or even think of earthly rewards but by keeping our eyes on the prize of eternal life and happiness in heaven. This is the message of Peter when he says, “When the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
Peter the Rock
Gospel Commentary: Matthew 16:13-19
Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?” They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets” Then Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?”
The disciples did not realize it, but Jesus had just pulled a pop quiz. Jesus did not need the answers because He already knew the answers. But Jesus did want the disciples to do a self-examination. Were the disciples paying attention to everything that Jesus was saying and doing? Were they making the connection of what Jesus was saying and doing to the prophecies contained within the Scriptures? And, just how deep was their faith?
We can still see today that people are confused as the disciples were confused when Jesus asked the question. They all failed the test except for Peter who was the first among them to acknowledge Jesus as Christ, the Son of the living God. In doing so, Peter demonstrated his faith and Jesus rewarded Peter and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so, I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
In Exodus 33:20-22, the Lord made Moses the rock that would lead the children of Israel to the Promised Land. Moses is the rock of the Old Covenant, the Promised Land on earth and Peter is the rock of the New Covenant, the Promised Land in heaven.
Jesus continued saying to Peter, “I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
This is the first of two times that Jesus instituted the sacrament of Confession. If you reject that sacrament based on the idea that you do not have to confess your sins to someone else, or for any other reason; you reject this Gospel. Being able to go to Confession and receive absolution from your sins is a blessing given to us by Jesus and should not be rejected or ignored.
Being appointed as the leader of the Apostles and head of the Church did not sink in with Peter at the moment but he had just been given one of the highest levels of authority possible. Jesus showcased this by making Peter the first to receive the authority to absolve sins.
It was in this Gospel that Peter was appointed as the first head of the Church, the position which we know as the Pope. It was in John 21:15-17 that Jesus defined that position when He instructed Peter to feed the lambs, tend the sheep and feed the sheep. It is in respect for the authority given to Peter in today’s Gospel that we celebrate the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle. It is not the physical chair that we celebrate. It is what the chair represents that we celebrate. In so doing, we celebrate the authority of the Papacy and Peter as the first Pope.