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Feast of Saint Peter’s Chair

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle

First Reading: 1 Peter 5:1-4

Beloved:
I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23:1-3A, 4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Gospel: Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “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.
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.”

NAB

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of Peter. There is an actual chair—a physical seat—in the Vatican that is called the Chair of Peter. The feast is about more than a seat, though. Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that celebrating the Chair of Peter is “a very ancient tradition, proven to have existed in Rome since the fourth century. On it we give thanks to God for the mission he entrusted to the Apostle Peter and his Successors.”

When Jesus asks Saint Peter who he thinks He is, Peter tells Him that He is the Messiah. Jesus responds with authority, grabbing Peter by his faith, and declaring him to be the rock upon which Christ’s Church will be built. Further, He promises Peter that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. God makes a promise to Peter and to us. The Church will be triumphant. God will see that it is triumphant. Jesus tells Peter (and us) that He will build His Church. Peter doesn’t have to do it under his own power. The Holy Spirit lays the rock solid foundation of the Church in that moment. Christ makes Peter the first Pope, and Peter accepts the mission of teacher and apostle. Peter will do Christ’s work on earth, the first of an unbroken line of apostolic succession, each man empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue building the Church and bringing the Gospel.

Remember, in the First Reading, Peter tells his priests to tend to their flocks. And the flock? We, the people that they shepherd? What do we do? We pray for our Pope. We pray for our priests.

Today, as you celebrate the feast, reach out to the priest who builds up the church in your small corner of the world every day. Invite him for a meal. Bring a loaf of bread. Remind him of your prayers.

Elizabeth Foss is a wife, the mother of nine, and a grandmother. She finds the cacophony of big family imperfection to be the perfect place to learn to walk in the unforced rhythms of grace. You can learn more about her here

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