Thursday, February 22, 2007
Thursday word, 22 Feb 2007
Chair of Peter, Feast (22 Feb 2007) 1Pt 5. 14; Ps 23; Mt 16. 1-6, 13-19
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Keys To Serve
Certain solemnities and feasts occur during Lent, and the mass of the day defers to those festivals. Today’s feast recalls that St. Peter was established as the teaching head of the church. Before Rome, Peter’s well-known center of active ministry was Antioch, the capital of the eastern Mediterranean region.
In early eras there and later, Christians observed their anniversaries of baptism, their birthdays into Christ and his church. Bishops similarly kept the anniversaries of their ordinations. Saint Leo the Great, pope in the mid-5th Century, recalled his elevation as pope in four homilies.
Saint Leo recommended that we celebrate the Chair of Saint Peter--his role as first teacher and head of the church, not a piece of furniture-- with as much joy as we recall his martyrdom. As Head of the church, Peter taught all Christians the path to martyrdom.
It is easy to forget Peter’s martyrdom or keep it on a par with his service to teach and support the apostles. The gospel recalls the authority Jesus vested in Peter. The image of the keys can help us appreciate it as the church intends.
If you give me the keys to your home and ask me to watch it while you are away, holding your keys doesn’t give me authority to redecorate your home. Nor does holding your keys give me power to sell your home. Entrusting me with your keys puts me at your service. Giving me your keys empowers me to serve you, specifically to watch your home.
Jesus gave Peter and gives to all bishops specific power: power to serve the unity of the church in their ministry of teaching. Receiving their teaching empowers us to serve, too, specifically to become clearer witnesses of Jesus’ gospel with our lives.
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