Chair of Saint Peter
1 Peter 5:1-4; Matthew 16: 13-19
Today we recall the day our Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed the fisherman from
Capernaum the rock of the Church. Simon had just acknowledged Jesus to be the Son
of the Living God and the Rock of Salvation. Pope Francis offered this beautiful insight.
“It is not the rock that gets its name from Peter, but Peter that gets it from the rock, just
as the name Christ does not derive from the Christian, but the name Christian derives
from Christ” (Feb. 22, 2016). It was by a special grace from God that Peter was able to
acknowledge the Lordship of Christ. It is by a similar grace that all Christians are able to
partake of the glory that will be revealed.
The fisherman who was called to be a fisher of men has become the Rock upon
whom the church is built. This cornerstone of faith has become the shepherd of Christ’s
flock, tending the lambs and feeding the sheep. We are God’s people, the sheep of his
flock. Because of his infinite love for us, we know Him and He knows us (Cf. Jn. 10:14).
He makes us graze in pastures of tender grass and he quenches our thirst with streams
of life-giving water that flow from his pierced heart.
The fisherman who once sat in his boat mending his nets is now seated upon the
chair of Moses seeking to unify the body of believers. Peter was commissioned to calm
the troubled hearts of the flock and to feed their hungry souls with sound doctrine and
the Bread of Life. It is important to remember that Peter did not come to this post
because of his strength of character. Knowing Peter’s weaknesses, we are reminded of
Jesus’ prayer for him during the Last Supper. “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your
faith may not fail you. And when you have repented and returned to me, strengthen your
brothers” (Lk. 22:32). Because he knew himself to be forgiven and called, we can place
Paul’s words on Peter’s lips: “I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in
persecutions and in difficulties that I suffer for the sake of Christ. For it is when I am
weak that I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).
The Cross is God's chair in the world. From it, Christ taught humanity the most
important lesson of self-sacrificing love. The chief shepherd who has been identified
with the flock in weakness, sin, and forgiveness was called to bring the healing power of
God’s grace to everyone in need. Because he knows himself to be found by the Good
Shepherd he continues to seek and find all that was lost. In the search, he puts his life
on the line. He who was made the fisher of men is concerned with all the sheep
belonging to the heavenly sheepfold.
The Church is not a communion of the perfect but a communion of sinners who
stand in need of forgiveness. Few are strong and none are sinless, so it makes perfect
sense that the principle of unity and the cornerstone of the Church should be one who is
deeply aware of his need for mercy so that the mercy of God can shine through him.