Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it – not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose;
Near restful waters he leads me;
to revive my drooping spirit. R./
He guides me along the right path
for the sake of his name.
Though I walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your rod and your staff
with these you give me courage. R./
You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes;
my head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing. R./
Surely goodness and kindness will follow me
all the days of my life;
In the house of the Lord shall I dwell
for ever and ever. R./
When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
The early Christians in Rome honoured the day when Simon Peter came to lead the church in the capital city, under the title “Cathedra Petri” (the Chair of Peter in Rome). By the ninth century this feast was celebrated in two places, in the Vatican Basilica and in a cemetery on the Via Salaria. In both places a chair (cathedra) was venerated, in memory of Peter’s presidency over the faithful in Rome.
The text of Matthew chapter 16 is often misused as a Gospel justification for inflated claims to worldwide jurisdiction and absolute monarchy, concepts far removed from the mind of Christ and far from the mind of Peter himself, as seen in the first reading, where he calls himself a “sym-presbyteros” a fellow-elder. This epistle identifies Peter’s role as assistant to Christ the chief shepherd, rather than as lawgiver, oracle or pontiff. As illustrated in the papal style of pope Francis, the Matthean texts about Peter need to be read in context of many other texts in our Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, that provide a more rounded picture of the full ministry exercised and passed on by St Peter.
Today’s feast honours the papacy as visible head of our worldwide Catholic Church. It invites us to pray for divine guidance on our present pope and on the whole church of God throughout the world. We look forward to a new era of hopeful, life-affirming Catholicism, led and encouraged by a fraternal papal ministry, mirroring the noble example of St Peter himself.