Monday, February 22, 2010

St. Peter Gets the Chair

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. It is a recognition of the authority to rule the Church that Jesus gave to Peter in Mt 16:17-19.

What I realized today is that everything good and bad about the Papacy can be found in Peter. Is the Pope authoritarian? Peter let the Gentiles into what had them been a Jewish sect (Acts 11:15-18). Is the Pope too liberal or wishy-washy, a hypocrite? Peter later backed off and didn't treat the Gentiles properly, fellowshipping only with the Jews (Gal 2:11-14). Is the Pope too much of a Christian? Peter said he would never deny Christ even if he had to die (Mt 26:35). Is the Pope not enough of a Christian? Peter denied Jesus three times (Mt 26:69-75)! Is the Pope an instrument of Satan? Jesus said to Peter "Get behind me Satan..." (Mt 16:23).

It should not be surprising that we can see all of the Papacy in Peter. What is surprising is that we can all see ourselves in him, too. We like some people and not others, we are strong and weak, we are loyal to our friends and deny them too.

Peter is human; we are human. The Popes are human too. Shall we deny them their humanity by insisting that they are either more or less human than ourselves? We are all sinners before God. The Church did not achieve holiness when I joined it! It does achieve holiness when it is united to Christ, the Head, as his Body--even the Popes!