Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of Peter, first Bishop of Rome and the first Pope. Why do we celebrate the papacy? We celebrate and honor the role of the Pope because the papacy, first given to Peter, was instituted by Jesus.
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
You might be thinking, well, perhaps this was an honor and responsibility bestowed only to Peter, but that would require a very, very narrow interpretation of the scripture. Jesus intended that his Church would continue until the end of time and that the gates of the netherworld would not prevail against it. As a result, it is clear that Jesus intended that this Church be founded and sustained on an unshakeable foundation of rock, and would continue to serve as the foundation for the Church through all ages. The popes are those entrusted by Christ with the awesome responsibility of leading, teaching and instructing the people of God. Everything that they do while sitting on the Chair of Peter is performed in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). This is a heavy burden.
So today, let us pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who like Peter before him holds the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.