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
And so I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build
"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
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
"The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want."