Today the Church celebrates an unusual, but significant feast day, known as the Chair of St. Peter. Obviously, the focus is not on the ‘chair’ but rather upon the ‘office’ Jesus bestowed upon Peter at the moment Peter proclaimed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt 16:16)
Let’s not pass over that confession of faith to lightly or quickly …
You are the Christ! This is essential, and we call this Faith; faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and the Messiah, and God’s Anointed who comes in to the world as the fulfillment of God’s promise for the salvation of the world.
Jesus did not pass over Peter’s profession of faith either, as we hear in his response:
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Heavenly Father.”
Faith is a gift. Peter is able to see in Jesus his true identity, which goes well beyond the inability of others to see him as more than just a worthy prophet. Our faith – the faith of the Church – in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God is critical!
Because of Peter’s faith, Jesus shares with him the ‘key’ role which we celebrate today, namely that of being the leader of his brother apostles.
“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.” (Mt 16: 18-19)
It is from this moment in the life of Jesus and Peter that we learn Christ desired to establish the Church, along with the office of leadership based on faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, we have apostolic succession in both the role of the Holy Father as the successor to Peter, and in the office of bishops as successors to the apostles.
Let us pray for Pope Francis today. As we recall St. Peter’s confession of faith, let us pray for the faith of Pope Francis as his successor. Let us pray also for all who profess faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God!