Daily Reflection
February 22nd, 2008

Jim Egan, S.J.

Jesuit Community
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Since the fourth century, the feast of the chair of Peter has been celebrated at Rome as a sign of the unity of the church founded by that Apostle.

"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!

Blessed are you 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."

"I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned to me you must strengthen the faith of your brothers." (Lk 22: 32)

Two hundred and fifty years after Francis Xavier left Japan and the nucleus of a devout Christian Community, a French missionary priest arrived. When he had finished building a church, fifteen of the fifty thousand hidden Christians in the Nagasaki area approached him with questions. They concluded with, "Do you follow the Pope in Rome?" When the priest answered affirmatively, they whispered their eloquent response,

"The hearts of all here
are the same as yours."

This anecdote of the faith of ordinary people, purified by persecution tells us much about the continuing role of the one who sits in the chair of Peter. He is given the mandate to confirm and strengthen the faith of his brothers and sisters. He is to call us, as Jesus called Peter to respond to the question, "Who do you say that I am?" He is not to lord it over us, but to be the servant of the servants of God. In this he serves the unity and love of all the local Churches throughout the world. His ministry is to foster communion with all the churches of all the nations and cultures so that they may manifest to the world the organic unity of the Body of Christ. This union of hearts and minds is a sign of hope the fractured human family longs for. To do this effectively he must listen deeply to the unique life of the local churches in diverse cultures so that he can receive and share their gifts with the universal Church.

We have that same relationship with Benedict, our Pope, as those of our brothers and sisters in Nagsaki; we have the same need to have our faith and communion confirmed by him. As bishop of the Church of Rome we give him honor and respect and support him in our prayers and remember him by name at every Mass we celebrate. At times there can be tension in this real relationship in our intimate life of faith, just as there was between Peter and Paul in their disagreements in pastoral approaches to gentiles. At these times we are reminded to have recourse to our heavenly Father rather than flesh and blood. Our solidarity in a universal chuch becomes our consolation and joy.

As we go into Lent, where does our faith need to be confirmed? How can we, during this season, confirm and support the faith of others? How can we witness with Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God? How can I show care for the unity of the Body of Christ? Where do we especially need to seek God's guidance and strength?

"The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want."

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