Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle
Art: Saint Peter, 1634 By Guido Reni
Reading 1 1 PT 5:1-4
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 PS 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.
Alleluia MT 16:18
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church;
the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MT 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.”.
St Peter wrote, “I have something to tell your elders: I am elder myself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ.” Clearly, anyone who wishes to assume leadership in the Church, regardless of which level of leadership, is asking for a share in the sufferings of Christ. In the gospel the Lord told His disciples in no uncertain terms, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9:23) To the apostles specifically, Jesus told them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I will drink, or be baptized with the baptism I will undergo?” (Mk 10:38)
Often, people think that the call to ministry in the Church is one of pure joy without suffering. Some want to enter the priesthood or religious life so that they can escape from the temptations of the world; and the worldly politics, competition and anxieties. Those who seek to flee from the world because of fear of the world will only come to realize that they are jumping out of the frying pan into the fire! Working and serving in the Church does not mean that we are protected from worldly temptations, ambitions and challenges. That is why Pope Francis always warns us, especially those in priestly and religious life, of the traps of spiritual worldliness.
To think that we can escape from sin is naivety. The problem is not with the world or society but the inner man and woman. We are sinners to the core. Jesus said, “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mk 7:21-23) We carry our sins with us whether we live in the world or in the religious life. So it is the individual; not the structure or society.
Indeed, being a priest and religious could be difficult, but living out the priesthood and religious charisms is even more difficult. So, too, for a Christian. Getting baptized involves some sacrifices but living an authentic Christian life requires much courage and perseverance. The sufferings of a Christian, and especially of a Christian leader, is real. If we are just contented to be a mediocre priest, or religious, or a Christian, then it does not take much to be one. Such people will not make a difference in the lives of anyone.
The call to service always entails suffering, regardless whether we are serving in the parish or the poor. It calls for sacrifice because there will be conflicts, division and disagreements when it comes to approaches, policies and decisions. Many walk out or remain defiant against authority when they cannot agree with them. It must be their way and no other way. In a world of relativism and individualism, getting people to agree on anything calls for grace. Even within the Church, the call to obedience to authority is, most of the time, just talk. Volunteers choose where they like to serve; not what God wants them to do. That is why they walk out easily when things are not to their liking. Priests and religious are also volunteers. Can they walk out as they like when they disagree with the authorities or their superiors? That they do not does not also mean that they are happy because often obedience is given with much resentment and bitterness. This is counter-witnessing to sharing the sufferings of Christ because Christ carried His sufferings and rendered His obedience to the Father willingly and with faith. He did not harbor anger at His Father for not making His ministry fruitful and successful. He did not blame His Father for His having to carry the cross and being abandoned on the cross. But with Jesus, He commended everything to the Father in obedience to His holy will.
However, we must clarify that is it not all pure suffering but there is also much joy in the ministry, provided we see our sufferings in context. This was the attitude of St Paul when he wrote, “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” Christian joy is paradoxical joy. It is joy in suffering. This joy comes from the heart of love and compassion. When we suffer for love and because of love, there will be a deep interior joy that the world cannot give. Jesus did not simply come to give us joy but godly joy.
So if there is no love in our hearts, we cannot be a witness to Christ’s suffering. Instead, we will cause others to suffer because of our arrogance and self-centeredness. Peter warns us against becoming a dictator, using our power to oppress the lives of others and suppressing those who disagree with us. In the face of sufferings, we will become even more resentful and vindictive. If you are not ready for self-sacrificing and humble love for the Lord, then don’t aspire to Christian leadership or even service. Priests are always reminded at mass that we are not just priests who offer the sacrifice of Christ but we are victims, for Jesus tells us at the Eucharistic meal, “Do this in memory of me.” When we choose to become His priests, cleric or laity, we are called to make ourselves a living sacrifice to the world. St Paul appeals to us “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:1)
That is why St Peter exhorts us to be good shepherds purely out of love and service; “Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it.” The only motive for aspiring to leadership, whether in the Church or in the world is because we recognize the talents given to us by God and we assume the responsibilities that God entrusts to us in looking after His sheep. Servant leadership has nothing to do with gain, whether glory, power or even monetary gains. When a Church leader serves with such motives, he or she has already lost focus. Instead of being “an example that the whole flock can follow”, we become counter-witnesses.
So what is needed for us to stay on course? In the final analysis, it depends on our personal relationship with the Lord. In a most critical moment of His ministry, Jesus asked the apostles, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” What was their response? “Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophet.” Jesus retorted, “But you, who do you say I am?” Who Jesus is to us will determine our fortitude and perseverance in serving the Lord and His people. If we know Jesus personally as our Good Shepherd, then we will walk with Him even in the valley of darkness because “Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit. He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name. If I should walk in the valley of darkness no evil would I fear. You are there with your crook and your staff; with these you give me comfort.” Jesus remains our source of strength, courage and guide. With Jesus as our shepherd “there is nothing I shall want.”
Secondly, it depends on whether we have faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God, which was the confession of St Peter. Unless we confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, (cf Rom 10:9) we will not be able to withstand the onslaughts of the world, especially in the face of relativism and secularism. This is the rock that we are called to stand on. Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.” This rock is the confession of faith in His divinity and sonship. Without which, our faith is built on sand and we cannot stand with Jesus especially when our faith and morals are being challenged by the world.
To receive this key, that is the authority that comes from faith in His divine sonship is a gift from God. Jesus remarked, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.” So when we see priests, religious and lay leaders lacking in faith and in Christian leadership and example, perhaps, we should learn to be forgiving. Perhaps, they never really had a deep and life-changing encounter with the Lord. They have faith but their faith is founded on tradition, culture, upbringing, transmission from their elders and study. They have yet to encounter Jesus personally. It is a gift from the Father. We can only pray for this experience because it is not given even through study and theology.
Finally, let us have hope and confidence in the Lord. Jesus asked this critical question to prepare the apostles ahead of His passion. We must in times of suffering look beyond the here and now towards the future and the life that is to come. Hope of a better world and a share of His fullness of life should keep us going. This was what St Paul wrote, “I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed.” And to his fellow elders, he assured them, “When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.” So do not think our sufferings for the Lord and His Church are given in vain. They are the seeds of the new Church and the kingdom of God.
Peter became the leader of the apostles, after Jesus’ ascension.
So many people want signs and miracles and yet even what is evidently happening in history and the present times, there is still spiritual blindness. Sometimes what we really need to know is already there in front of our eyes. It might mean that we must open our mind so we can understand from a different perspective. Our world is more than two dimensional. Our thought process is not lineal although help to connect information together. With the right information, we can see how everything fits together. We can expand on this as you will see here. There are layers of awareness and so nothing is every straightfoward. Nothing is ever quite as it seems. Nothing is coincidence either.
A previous article shows St. Peter’s and how this reveals a key. In this statue St Peter is holding Keys and also a scroll. There are two keys in his right hand. One key is silver plated and the other is gold plated. The scroll indicates that Peter received Divine Revelation and was guided directly from God with making decisions. For this reason he became an important figurehead of the church.
Old Saint Peter’s Basilica stood from the 4th to 16th centuries where the Basilica of Saint Peter stands today in Rome. Construction of the Basilica was built over the historical site of the Circus of Nero. Work began during the reign of emperor Constantine I ordered the contstuction between 326 and 333; that took 30 years to complete. The name Old Saint Peter’s Basilica to distinguish between the buildings of the Old and present time Bassilica.
“The altar of the Old St. Peter’s used several Solomonic columns. According to tradition, Constantine took these columns from the Temple of Solomon and gave them to the church; however, the columns were probably from an Eastern church. When Gian Lorenzo Bernini built his baldacchino to cover the new St. Peter’s altar, he drew from the twisted design of the old columns. Eight of the original columns were moved to the piers of the new St. Peter’s.”
Fresco of Constantine’s Old St. Peter’s Basilica as it looked in the 4th century.
Since the crucifixion and burial of Saint Peter in 64 A.D., the Basilica is said to be the location of the tomb of Saint Peter. The structure housed tombs of saints and popes. Bones were still being found as late as February 1544. In the design of the new basilica attempted to reconsecrate these remains as much as possible.
“It is stated in the Liber Potitificalis, written by Anastasius Bibliothecarius in the eighth century, that the Emperor Constantine after his miraculous conversion caused the body of St. Peter to be exhumed in presence of Pope St. Sylvester, and enshrined in a case of silver enclosed within a sarcophagus of Cyprian brass. Over this he placed a large cross of gold weighing one hundred and fifty pounds, and bearing the inscription : “Constantinus aug. et Helena aug. hanc doraum regalem (auro decorant quam) simili fulgore coruscans aula circumdat.” The body was then restored to its original tomb, over which he erected an altar and a vaulted chamber (in place of St. Anacletus’ memoria) faced interiorly with plates of gold. This chamber was, and still is, right under the high-altar of St. Peter’s basilica, and on the Apostle’s tomb still lies the cross of gold, as will be shown later.”
The Destruction of Old Basilica of St. Peters
“Old St. Peter’s had lasted some 1126 years (i.e., from A.D. 324 to 1450), when the walls began to settle down on the side where the masonry of Nero’s circus had been retained. Lanciani says the destruction of this venerable basilica is “one of the saddest events in the history of the ruin of Rome,” yet it was considered a necessity, for in Nicholas V’s time (1447—1455) the structure was found to be in a damaged state, and the roof threatened to fall. He conceived the idea of entirely rebuilding it, but did little or nothing because of the enormous sums required. Pope Benedict XII (1334—1342) had spent 80,000 gold florins (i.e., some ,£480,000 of our money) in repairing the roof; but a century later it was found to be again unsafe, thousands of rats having made holes in the beams, and the southern wall was leaning three feet seven inches to the side, so that the pilgrims, who came to the Jubilee of 1450, were naturally alarmed.”
St. Clements with St. Peter of Alexandria – who is seen here holding the scepter. According to Tertullian, Clement was consecrated by Saint Peter, and he is known to have been a leading member of the church in Rome in the late 1st century. Pope Clement I also known as Saint Clement of Rome (in Latin, Clemens Romanus), is listed from an early date as a Bishop of Rome. He was the first Apostolic Father of the Church.
St. Peter is seen holding a book and the keys. We also see that he is illumined (by God) His crown chakra is open to recieve divine revelation and this provides evidence of him being sanctified.
History has been mapped out to the finest detail – so has today. There is no cheating to attain spiritual enlightenment. No one can buy or sell this realisation within our being. The people who have strived to maintain lofty places and kept people down, might never realise a higher consciousness. However, in this time there are more people from all backgrounds, cultures and faiths who are ready to experience higher consciousness.
The Golden Age is the age of enlightentment – for everyone.
By research, we can learn about history in context. Visual evidence helps to support factual information. Ancient buildings, ruins of temples and churches give evidence of history and people who have lived before. In the ancient times war, fire and natural disasters, floods and earthquakes have been reasons why ancient buildings have been destroyed. At different times throughout history, people have been divinely inspired and this is not to create division between people – but to unite people together in peace. Today the churches are uniting in peace and it is important that no one is excluded from this opportunity and understanding. Today there is a golden opportunity for everyone to realise a higher consciousness. You decide your process.
Physical locatons can change, buildings can change even people can change – however truth does not change. Peter is written about in the Holy Bible. Nothing is hidden from anyone!
Peace, love and best wishes
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 12: 1-11; Ps 33:2-9; 2 Tim 4, 6-8. 17-18; Mt 16, 13-19 ]Our Holy Father, Pope Francis is bringing much needed renewal to the Church and the world. Indeed, he is truly visionary and courageous. He has undertaken radical reforms in the Church, especially the Curia and the different Church organs. He has given a new face to the papacy by his simplicity, ordinariness and compassion, especially for the poor and the ordinary people. He is also very much in touch with the struggles of ordinary Catholics, whether in family life, in marriage and especially those who are divorced. He feels with those with a different sexual orientation, the marginalized and the outcast. He has also made radical changes in the liturgy to make it simpler and connected to life. He reaches out beyond the Church to peoples from other Christian communions and other religions as well. His speeches and homilies are straight from the heart and not couched in nice political language. Indeed, because of his authenticity and genuine love for all, many outside the Catholic Church admire him and find him truly the face of Christ for them. Because of him, the Church has become more missionary and evangelical and he has changed the image of a cold, indifferent and outdated Church fazed by scandals, especially pedophilia to a Church of compassion and mercy.
Indeed, Pope Francis shows himself to be a true shepherd of the flock of Christ and a true missionary in bringing Christ to all, especially the poor and the marginalized. He seeks to exercise both roles by modelling his life after St Peter and St Paul. St Peter is the symbol of the call to be a shepherd to the flock of Christ, whereas St Paul reminds us of our missionary call to proclaim Christ to the earth. Every Pope, bishop and priest and lay person is also called to be both a shepherd and a missionary. The mission of the Church consists of both ad intra and ad extra; within, as we renew ourselves in the faith and without, by being evangelical minded. Pope Francis seeks to bring both these aspects into his ministry by being the shepherd of the universal Church by governance and teaching on one hand, and on the other hand, by being creative and proactive in reaching out to those who have left the Church, those outside the Church and those who are unreached. And he is doing this at the risk of being misunderstood and opposed by his own.
What should our attitude be with respect to the changes that Pope Francis is undertaking for the Church? What if some of us cannot agree with him and feel confused with the developments in the Church, especially with regard to time immemorial doctrines and practices, particularly liturgical practices? Indeed, for those of us who are happy with the changes, they have all but praise for him and thanksgiving to God. But for those who sincerely object to the innovations and initiatives of our Holy Father, particularly in seeking to make the faith more real and relevant in the lives of our people, especially those who feel ostracized by the Church, how should we handle this dilemma?
The real question at the end of the day is: do you have faith in St Peter and his successors, the college of bishops, the magisterium? Do you believe that the Holy Spirit that is promised to the Church guarantees the infallibility of the teaching of the Church? At the end of the day, it is a matter of faith, not logic or understanding, or even finding consensus. As the Vicar of Christ and the pastor of the universal Church, the Holy Father has full and supreme authority over the Church. When he teaches in matters of faith and morals, we must give a religious assent to His teachings; if ex cathedra, submission in faith; and if ordinary teaching, the submission of the intellect and will. (Cf LG 22,25) Precisely, in matters of faith, reason is not sufficient to establish but revelation is required. Otherwise, faith is reduced to mere reason alone.
The scripture readings of today assure us that St Peter is under the protection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the first reading, we read how St Peter was miraculously released from jail by an angel who could simply be a messenger of the Lord. At first he thought it was a dream, but later when Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know it is all true. The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.”
In the gospel too, we read how the Lord assured St Peter of divine assistance. In the first place, his declaration that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” is through divine revelation given to him. The Lord said, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.” Furthermore, the Lord entrusted St Peter with the authority to govern the Church of Christ. He said, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Not only St Peter but He also protects His apostles. St Paul too experienced God’s protection when he recounted, “The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.”
Based on this promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church has consistently professed the supreme teaching authority of St Peter and his successors throughout the ages. His teaching when declared ex cathedra is to be accepted in faith; and when taught ordinarily, it must be accepted with the religious submission of the intellect and will.
Today, when we celebrate the re-dedication of the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, we want to reaffirm our faith in Christ according to the mind of the Church as declared on our behalf by St Peter. The rock that Jesus spoke about is both St Peter as the rock on which His Church is built, that is, under His guidance. But it is also a reference to the faith of Peter in Christ as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Unless, we make St Peter’s faith our own, both in mind and in heart, we cannot find salvation. We too must be able to declare personally that Christ is the Son of God. It is not enough therefore simply to rely on the faith of St Peter or the Church but it must also be our own. Without this faith in Christ as the Son of God, we cannot profess our faith in the teaching of the Holy Father as well.
But this personal faith in Christ as the Son of God has its implications. All of us are called to nurture the faith of those Catholics under our care. We are called to look after the faith of our loved ones, especially our young. The reason why the faith of many of our Catholics is weak is because many are poorly instructed in their faith. Doctrinally, they know so little and spiritually, they do not read the Word of God or share the Word of God with their brothers and sisters. Their faith in Christ at most is an intellectual faith but not the personal faith demanded of Christ when He asked the disciples the question, “Who do you say I am?” We cannot be missionary minded unless we take our discipleship seriously.
At the same time, this feast also reminds us that it is not sufficient just to look into the interests of the Catholic community; we are called to be like St Paul, sharing this faith with the whole world. His whole life was given for the spread of the gospel, especially to those who do not know him. He wrote, “As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish.” With St Paul, we are reminded that the Church does not exist for herself but for the world. So whilst it is important to follow St Peter in shepherding our Catholics and looking after our Catholic community, in our parish and in the diocese, we must not forget the missionary thrust of the Church. As Pope Francis often reminds us, we are always missionary disciples. We need to look after our faith and strengthen our faith, but this is for the sake of the mission.
When we celebrate this feast of Ss Peter and Paul, we must never forget that we are called to imitate both St Peter and St Paul. With St Peter, we must take part in the life of the community, serving the community and learning from each other so that we can deepen our faith in the Lord. We must never forget that we need to deepen our faith each day so that we can arrive at the faith of St Peter, making his faith our own personal conviction. So it is not enough to serve in the ministry but we need to be disciples of Christ through prayer, study and fellowship. With St Paul, let us be missionaries and evangelists for Christ so that the world will know Him as Saviour and Lord. We need to actively reach out beyond our community and bring Christ to the world directly or indirectly through works of mercy and charity.