Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the apostle. This is a feast that commemorates Jesus giving the servant authority of the Church to Saint Peter, as we heard in today’s Gospel. This is a special day of prayer for the Pope, the successor of Saint Peter among us.
It’s important to remember that Saint Peter was not chosen because he was perfect, but instead because he was faithful. Even after he denied Jesus, he turned back and three times professed his love. That’s an important lesson for us, because we too may have failed our Lord time and time again, but he always gives us the opportunity to turn back, to profess our love, and to be part of his mission once again.
In today’s Scripture, Saint Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, the One who comes in God’s name. Making that proclamation is the task of the Church in every place, and in every age. We disciples are called to faithfulness, just as Peter was; we are called to conversion, just as Peter was; and we are called to witness to the authority of Christ in every situation: in our Church, yes, but also in our workplaces and in our homes. With the Lord as our shepherd, there is nothing we shall want in any situation.
The great sin of the rich man may not have been the sin of neglecting poor Lazarus, although that was certainly bad. His greatest sin, though, was that he trusted in himself and not in God. He had everything he needed in life, because he was able to trust in himself to get it. But he never had a relationship with God. Now in death, he wants the good things God will provide for those who trust in him, people like Lazarus for example. But he has already made his choice, and unfortunately now, trusting in himself doesn’t bring him anything good. Blessed are they, the Psalmist says today, who hope in the Lord.
Today we also celebrate the last day of the pontificate of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Benedict is a man who truly has trusted in God, and has continued to do so in his last days. Rather than cling to power in his last days, as his health deteriorates, he has trusted in God to lead the Church and has resigned the pontificate, which has been rather unprecedented in recent centuries.
And so we give thanks today for the leadership of Pope Benedict, for his strength and spirituality and intellect, all of which have allowed him to serve God and the Church with grace as pope, as a cardinal before that, and a theologian. Like the one of whom Jeremiah speaks in our first reading, Benedict’s life has been fruitful and has given life to the Church.
As we look forward to the election of his successor, we pray that the Spirit will continue to guide the Church in the years ahead. Blessed are we who hope in the Lord!