UNITY BOTH OF FAITH AND OF COMMUNION
(A biblical refection on THE FEAST OF THE SEE OF SAINT PETER THE APOSTLE – Monday, 22 February 2016)
First Reading: 1 Peter 5:1-4
Psalms: Psalm 23:1-6; Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:13-19
The Scripture Text
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4 RSV)
Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, remembering with gratitude Peter’s coming to Rome and establishing the foundation of the Catholic Church. According to tradition, the “Chair of Peter” refers both to the actual chair that Peter sat in as he presided over the Church in Rome, and to the papacy itself, established by and linked to St. Peter.
What then did Peter have to say about the qualities of an ideal pastor? Like Jesus, his Master, he used the image of a shepherd caring for a flock (see John 10:11-18). A good pastor – or shepherd – wants to look after the sheep because he loves them, not for any personal gain. Pastors are called to care for their sheep “not as domineering” over them, but “being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3).
This job description is for all those who lead the Church – not only the Pope, but also bishops, priests, deacons, and laypeople with pastoral responsibility. Jesus is clearly the model for all these roles. He cared for His followers with humble authority. He sought no personal gain. He lived out perfectly everything he taught. Jesus witnessed to the Gospel He preached, even to the point of laying down His own life for us, His sheep.
Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium)” teaches that “Jesus Christ, the eternal pastor, set up the holy Church by entrusting the apostles with their mission as He Himself had been sent by the Father. He willed that their successors, the bishops namely, should be the shepherds in His Church until the end of the world. In order that the episcopate itself, however, might be one and undivided He put Peter at the head of the other apostles, and in him He set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion” (Lumen Gentium, 18).
Today let us pray for this “unity both of faith and of communion” for all who are in positions of authority.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help our leaders to become increasingly like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who leads us in humility and faithfulness to You. By their ministries, may a greater unity come to Your Church, that all people would marvel at our love for one another. Amen.
Jakarta, 21 February 2016
A Christian Pilgrim