To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Peter 5:1-4; Mt 16:13-19
The Chair of St. Peter is a feast which celebrates the Lord’s choice of Peter to be the servant-leader of the Church. The choice of Peter is indicative of what the Church is. On the one hand Peter was over zealous, brash, impulsive, spontaneous and ready to die for the Lord, while on the other he would deny the Lord and run away when trouble arose. The Church as a whole has been like Peter. Yet, this is whom the Lord chooses and continues to choose, broken men and women called to heal a broken world.
The Gospel text chosen for the feast is popularly known as “Peter’s Confession”. The question of Jesus concerning his identity is not because he wanted to be informed about people’s opinion of him, but to draw a contrast between people’s answers and the answer of the disciples. Matthew is the only evangelist who adds Jeremiah to the answers of the people. Some think that Matthew has done so because of Jeremiah’s association with the fall of Jerusalem. Others think that Jeremiah is mentioned because of his prophecy of the new covenant.
After hearing through the disciples what the people have to say about his identity, Jesus asks the disciples the same question. The “you” is plural and therefore addressed to all disciples. It is also emphatic. Simon Peter answers on behalf of the group. Matthew adds “the Son of the living God” to Mark’s “Christ”. Only in Matthew does Jesus respond directly to Peter. Peter is not blessed because of a personal achievement, but because of the gift he received from God. Jesus names Peter as rock, the one who holds the keys and the one who binds and looses. Rock here stands for foundation, and though Peter is the foundation, Jesus is the builder. The holder of keys was one who had authority to teach and the one who binds and looses is the one who had authority to interpret authoritatively. The reason for ordering them to tell no one is to reinforce the idea that the community founded by Jesus is distinct from Israel who rejected Jesus.
The feast of today invites us to reflect on two aspects in the Church. The first of these is that authority in the Church does not mean domination but always service. The model of this service is Jesus and it is him that we must imitate. The second is that even as we are broken ourselves and sinners, we are called to heal the world. This is because like in Peter’s case so in ours, it was not his merit that made him the leader of the Church, it was the grace of God which worked in him despite his sin.
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