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(Part 42)


Feast of the Chair of St. Peter
February 22, 2020

Today’s readings:
1 Peter 5:1-4
Psalm 23:1-6
Matthew 16:13-19

We need to be built on the Rock that is Christ. Now the body of Christ on earth is the Church. And just as God makes use of human instruments to do His divine will, so also is our Church led by a human person, who is the Pope. Jesus thus so appointed Peter. “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Mt 16:18a). The Church, founded on the Rock that is Christ, is also founded on the rock that is Peter.

Now if we build on rock, then the winds and floods that buffet the house cannot bring it down. Thus “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Mt 16:18b). But here is the interesting thing. Gates are for defense. So what this verse means is not that the enemy will not prevail against the Church as it assaults her (although that is true), but that it is the Church that assaults the enemy and the enemy cannot stand against her assaults. So from the very establishment of the Church as founded on Peter, Jesus has indicated the spiritual war that she will be engaged in. Our Church is missionary.

So there is Jesus the Rock, Peter the rock, and all of us as living stones of the structure. In the Church, as with any association or organization, there is not just one leader but many leaders, usually in hierarchical order. These are servant leaders, tasked with the life and mission of the Church. They are to “tend the flock of God in (their) midst” (1 Pt 5:2a). They are placed there to act in the place of God, “as God would have it” (1 Pt 5:2c). They do not replace God, but represent God and carry out His will and plan.

How do servant leaders go about their work?

  • They serve “not by constraint but willingly” (1 Pt 5:2b). They are not forced or paid to work, but voluntarily give of themselves. They recognize the great privilege of doing divine work and so do so willingly.
  • They serve “not for shameful profit but eagerly.” (1 Pt 5:2d). They are not after any material or other benefit such as money, business opportunities, perquisites, or enhancement of their power or recognition. Being able to serve is reward enough, and so they eagerly pursue it.
  • They “do not lord it over those assigned to (them)” (1 Pt 5:3a). They are not masters but servants. In being at the top, they have taken the lowest place. In being the greatest, they are the least. They do not serve as rulers of the world do but as Jesus does.
  • They are “examples to the flock.” (1 Pt 5:3b). Standing in the place of Jesus, who is the Chief Shepherd, they witness to Christ by their holy conduct and committed service. They are able to encourage people to imitate them because they themselves imitate Christ.
  • They follow in the footsteps of Jesus, as “witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.” (1 Pt 5:1b). Jesus was the suffering servant, and they too willingly embrace the cross. But this is not cause for woe but for great joy. The cross is the way to glory. “And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Pt 5:4).

So Jesus establishes his Church, makes her victorious against the enemy, and gives us the privilege to serve his flock. We do work on earth, but being divine work, we focus on Jesus and take on his ways. And Jesus does provide whatever it is we need. “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” (Ps 23:1). Jesus wants his kingdom secure and his work done. So he takes care of his leaders.

  • He guides us so we will not go astray and we will do what he wills. “He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name.” (Ps 23:3b).
  • He refreshes us and restores us, as we endure the hardships of service. “In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul.” (Ps 23:2-3a).
  • He protects us from the enemy, as we charge into the fray. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.” (Ps 23:4).
  • He exults us and honors us. “You set a table before me in front of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Ps 23:5). He is never outdone in generosity. We experience bountiful blessings. “Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life.” (Ps 23:6a).
  • He assures us of eternal life. “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for endless days.” (Ps 23:6b).

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