“Grant, we pray, almighty God, that no tempests may disturb us, for you have set us fast on the rock of the Apostle Peter’s confession of faith.”
We kicks things off with this prayer on the day the Church commemorates the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. This day commemorates Peter’s authority as head of the Apostles as well as the authority of all those who succeed Peter. To Peter and his successors is granted a primacy over the Church. The Chair of Saint Peter has come to represent the Pope’s special calling to teach and to serve the people of God.
In today’s Gospel (Matthew 16:13-19) we revisit the seminal discourse wherein Jesus asks his disciples “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” As the disciples went through the laundry list - John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah and so on, it was Peter, not surprisingly, who was the first to respond to Jesus’ follow-up question:
”But who do you say that I am?”
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” Peter responds, and in doing so secures his place as the rock upon which Jesus would build his Church. It is here that Jesus would go on to assure us that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his mystical bride. It is here where our hope resides.
Saint Peter’s journey is a redemption story for the ages. But so is Saint Paul’s. As is Saint Augustine’s....and the list goes on and on. Jesus was patient with these men. He is patient with us. Thanks be to God. We too must be patient with ourselves. We can grow into the people that Jesus wants us to be - needs us to be - but it takes time. Some days are better than others. Patience is indeed a virtue.
Jesus never gave up on Peter, and his persistence paid dividends. Peter would go on to become the man who sustains our vibrant Catholic Church today, an amazing and proud lineage that dates back to this man who was crucified upside down in honor and defense of his best friend and his teachings, the word made flesh.
Pope Pius XXII was inspired by Saint Peter when he stared the evil of Nazism in the eye while coordinating a rescue network which saved tens of thousands of Jews during World War II.
Pope Innocent III was emboldened by Saint Peter as he worked tirelessly to reform the church and establish the early framework of Canon Law as we know it today.
Pope Leo I was influenced by Saint Peter when he penned the “Tome of Leo,” which established the doctrine that Christ’s natures coexist and his Incarnation reveals that human nature is restored to perfect unity with divinity, not to mention his prolific Christmas Day Sermon “Christian, remember your dignity.”
Pope John Paul II was inspired by Saint Peter when he forgave his would-be assassin and pushed tirelessly for him to receive a lenient sentence, succeeding as it relates to the latter.
These are but a few examples.
So on this Feast Day when we celebrate Peter’s role as the leader of our Church, remember that it was by the grace of Jesus’ patience and willingness to mold him that he would ultimately grow to become the man he was willed and destined to be. Allow Jesus to keep on teaching and molding you as well so that you can go on to become the person he wants and needs you to be.
“The Lord said to Simon Peter: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail, and, once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” ~ Luke 22:32