The Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle

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.

Today’s readings

What an incredible privilege to gather today to pray for our new Holy Father, Pope Francis!  These have been historic days, and I am sure we have all felt the movement of the Holy Spirit on all those involved, from Pope Emeritus Benedict, humbly retiring so that the Church could be led with new vigor, to the cardinals gathered in conclave surrounded with prayer, to the announcement of our new Pope, just two days into the deliberations.

First impressions say a lot, we all know that.  And I think Pope Francis made a wonderful one.  He began by leading us in prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, by showing some humor in his remarks about being chosen from the ends of the earth, to the absolutely incredible favor that he asked of all of us, our prayer and blessing, before he gave the Apostolic Blessing itself.  I must say that I was rather moved by his humility, because I see in that humility a reflection of God himself.

Today’s readings give us that blueprint.  Jesus himself brushed aside human praise, and humbly deferred to the Father.  He holds up Moses as the quintessential leader.  We see that in the first reading, when Moses courageously comes to the aid of his people rather than accepting the fact that God was going to destroy them.  We see in these readings that a leader needs to be courageous and humble, and I think we will be seeing that in Pope Francis as well.

Today we continue our prayer for him.  His job is a big one – it always has been and today’s issues are as daunting as those of previous centuries.  He has chosen the patronage of Francis of Assisi, which points to his embrace of poverty, but also embraces Saint Francis’s call to rebuild the Church.

These are historic days, and how blessed we are to see them!  May our prayers and the leadership of Pope Francis guide and sustain the Church!

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent: Mass for the Pope

Today’s readings

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!

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, apostle

Today’s readings

Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the apostle. This is a feast that commemorates Jesus giving the servant authority of the Church to St. Peter, as we heard in today’s Gospel. This is a special day of prayer for the Pope, the successor of St. Peter among us.

It’s important to remember that 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 during this Lenten season.  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.

Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome

Today’s readings

Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of the Cathedral of St. John Lateran in Rome. Most people think of St. Peter’s Basilica as the pope’s church, but that’s not true. As the Bishop of Rome, his Cathedral Church is the Lateran Cathedral, once dedicated to our Savior, but now named for St. John the Baptist. This site has served as the Cathedral church for the pope ever since the first structure was built in the late 300s. It served until the pope was moved to Avignon, and upon returning, it was found to have been destroyed. The present structure was commissioned in the 1600s and is one of the most massive churches in Rome. Because it is the parish church of the pope, it is in some ways considered to be the parish church for all Catholics. Today we celebrate the feast of its dedication on November 9, 324 by Pope St. Sylvester I.

The disagreement between Jesus and the Jews in the Gospel reading today showed what was really a difference of opinion on what Church is.  The many services that were being offered outside the Temple were required for the sacrifice, so they supported the worship that went on there.  In a sense then, they were legitimate enterprises.  But Jesus came to bring about Church in a whole new way.  His uncharacteristically violent reaction was frustration that those who should know better did not see what God really wanted in worship.  He didn’t want birds or animals, he wanted people’s hearts so that he could re-create them anew.

Any feast like this is an opportunity for us to take a step back and look at this thing we call Church. The misunderstanding in the Gospel between Jesus and the Jews tells us that we cannot view Church as just a building. The reality of Church is brought to great perfection in the Body of Christ, and we see that because of Christ, the Church is a living, breathing thing that takes us in and out of time and space to be the body we were created to be. So today we celebrate Church; we peel back the Church’s many layers, touching and learning the concrete, living the experiential, asking for the intercession of the heavenly, and yearning to be caught up in the eternal. The Church is our Mother who has given us birth in the Spirit and who nurtures us toward eternal life.

The river of God’s life flows forth from the Church to baptize and sanctify the whole world unto the One who created it all. The Church has its foundation in Christ, who also raises it up to eternity. Blessed are all those who find their life in its sanctuary.