Some unsuspecting person reading the liturgical directorium for today, might think we are part of the lunatic fringe, as we observe the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. We don’t venerate a piece of furniture, rather today’s feast reminds us of the ministry of leadership conferred by Christ on Saint Peter, and which continues in an unbroken line down to the present Pope. The cathedra – or chair – remains a symbol of authority in the Church.
As people who live in the 21st century we may not think of ourselves as sheep, but on this Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, let’s take a moment to consider how we experience God caring for us as a shepherd, and how we are called to follow in his footsteps.
Saint Peter’s successor among us is Pope Francis and God uses him as his representative on earth to act as our chief shepherd. When he fulfils his role as pastor and teacher, the pope can be a great source of courage for us, he can be a figure of great stability in changing times, showing us the way to heaven.
But can we experience God’s care for us in other ways? In dioceses throughout the world, in parishes and in religious communities like our own, we can grow in love for God and learn how to serve him and our neighbour. We can find refreshment and inspiration through our worship which we share with the people who come to visit us here. Among the people with whom we come into contact we can forge relationships that will require us to be selfless – in imitation of the Good Shepherd.
There’s something very powerful about the way God’s blessings come to us through the Church. It’s not magic, but it is spectacular. And it doesn’t come automatically just because we say our prayers and go to Mass every day. But it does flow every time we imitate the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. It is this self-giving – this act of placing the needs of others first – that sets the Church apart. When we care for one another in a selfless way we experience God’s grace and the movement of the Holy Spirit within us.
Today as we celebrate the institution of the papacy on this Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, we should pray that all Christians will heal those wounds of division and that we will come together in Christ professing one faith in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, of which Saint Peter and his successor Pope Francis is head – for where there is Peter, there is the Church.