February 22, 2017
(The Chair of St. Peter)
Jesus asked His disciples, “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.” Mt_16:13-19
Today our Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. Now we might think it a bit odd to celebrate a Chair.
But it’s really the recognition of the person who occupies the chair that we’re celebrating today. And when we think about it, we all have our favorite chair for watching TV, or knitting, or reading Scripture. And we’ve seen how in our Courts, the judge will sit in a little fancier chair in the front and center of the room.
And even in our parishes, we see the priest or pastor sitting in what we call the Presidential Chair. You see, that’s a place of honor, it’s a place of leadership, and it’s a place of holiness.
Well, we see the same thing with the Larger Church, our Universal, Catholic Church. Beginning with St. Peter, who was Jesus’ designated leader for His Church, which we heard in our Gospel reading today, we have had 265 subsequent leaders of the Church, whom we call Popes.
And the Chair that the Pope sits in is called the Cathedra. It’s that special place from which the Pope will make important announcements about our faith. And it’s from that name, Cathedra, that every Central Church, of every diocese in the world, gets its name, Cathedral.
That Cathedral is the home Church of the diocesan Bishops, who are the successors of the first Bishop, Peter, by their special Ordination.
And remember, it’s not the Chair that makes them special, it’s the person.
These people, the Bishops, are the Shepherds, who are hand chosen by Jesus to lead His flock. Now of course, we know, that none of us, even our holy Bishops are created Perfect, like our True Shepherd, Jesus was. But the Bishops are trained and experienced in performing those Leadership tasks that Jesus taught.
And they have to do this in a world that’s screaming and clawing to bring them down. The job is not an easy one. So that’s why – they need us to pray for them. They need the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and guidance. And they even need a place to rest once in a while. And thus, we celebrate the Chair.
If you ever happened to see a picture of the Holy Spirit as a dove in a stained glass window that looks like this . . .
– You may not have realized that what you are looking at is a 17th century masterpiece created by the famous Italian sculptor and artist, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, called the Gloria.
And that Gloria sits in the Apse, behind the main altar, of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. And in front of the Gloria is a 40-50 foot bronze sculpture, created by Bernini, depicting this Chair of St. Peter called the “Cathedra Petri.”
The entire structure from the floor to the top of the Gloria’s rays is about 100 foot tall. And enclosed within the sculpture of the Chair is a relic of an old chair reminiscent of one that St. Peter himself may have presided Mass in.
It’s all a beautiful reminder of the Glorious Gift that God has given to us in Jesus Christ.
You see, just like for the Bishops, it is Jesus who is our true place of rest.
It is Jesus who leads and shepherds our way.
And it is Jesus who brings us the Hope of one day sitting with Him and with all the Saints and Popes in the Glory of His Heavenly Kingdom forever.
And that’s a Chair to celebrate!
_________________end of post