Catholic homily for Monday of the 1st Week of Lent
Theme: The Chair of Peter
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Monday February 22 2021
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 Messiah, 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.”
The feast we celebrate today may sound quite strange to some of us: the Chair of Peter. Why does a piece of furniture have its own feast? We have to understand, however, that the chair has been traditionally used as symbol of authority. For instance, in a patriarchal society such as among the Jews, the chair of the father, as head of the family, holds a significant place in the house. In fact, he is expected to remain seated in his chair when other people come to talk to him. That is why, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father does something unthinkable when he stood up and ran to meet his son.
The Latin word for chair is ‘cathedra’. Hence, the church which is the seat of the Diocese is called ‘Cathedral’ because it is where the chair of the Bishop is installed. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of Peter, the Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ. This Chair can be seen in the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is the symbol of the authority entrusted to him by Jesus Himself.
We may ask the question why Jesus chose Peter. The Gospel today gives us an important hint to the answer. Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” There are different answers. But it was Peter who answers correctly: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” This is not a simple answer; it is, in fact, a profession of faith. Obviously, it does not come from Peter’s own knowledge and understanding. Jesus knows this instantly: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” He, then, takes this as the sign from heaven that Peter is the Father’s choice as the foundation of the Church.
So, He solemnly declares: “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.” These are words of mandate and promise given to Peter. From then on, Simon is named ‘Peter’, a Latin translation of the Hebrew word ‘Cephas’, which means a big rock. In view of this, Peter and all his successors all through the ages, enjoy the special gift of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.
God did not choose a learned man who has exceptional knowledge of the Scriptures. He did not choose a powerful and talented speaker, nor someone with money or strong political connections. Peter is chosen because he has strong and indomitable faith. Definitely, he has his share of blunders, weaknesses and infidelities. He even denied Jesus for three times. But despite his failures and mistakes, he has shown his firm resolve to faithfully follow the Lord and to be the leader of the apostolic college.
Our Fisherman, after all, is truly stronger than Superman, Iron Man or Batman! In no way can the Gates of Hell prevail over this Rock.
This feast should also remind us of our duties and responsibilities in our own family and Christian community. The words in the first reading today, taken from the First Letter of Peter, should serve as our guide: “Do not Lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock” (1Pet 5:3). We pray also for the Successor of Peter, Pope Francis, that he may always be inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit so as to serve and lead the universal Church faithfully according to the teachings and example of Christ and the apostles.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches