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The Chair of St. Peter the Apostle

Reading 1 Peter 5:1-4
Gospel Matthew 16:13-19

“Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven....”

Peter is one of those saints so important to the life of the Church that he has more than one feast day during the year. Today is “the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter”.

The chair is a symbol of authority. Jesus refers to this in Matthew 23:2-3, when He commands and warns the crowd and His disciples: “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” Of course, Moses must have had an awfully big chair for all the scribes and Pharisees to be able to fit into it… unless this “chair” is metaphorical, referring to the teaching and judging office that Moses held in the Name of God.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus declares to Simon: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church”. The name that Jesus gives to “Peter” is a second metaphor for an office of teaching and judging, but to drive the point home, Jesus uses a third metaphor by speaking of the “keys of the kingdom of Heaven”.

The “power of the keys” is used in many ways: some are specific to the Office of Peter (that is, the papacy), while others are shared with those ordained to priestly ministry (for example, the Sacrament of Confession). Jesus mediates the grace of His Death and Resurrection to us through the ministry of mere human beings. These human leaders of the Church have been chosen by God, and so we pray for them, that they might always be faithful ministers of God’s grace.