And so I say to you, you are Peter,
The feast of the Chair of Peter reminds us that our Lord gave Peter a unique role of servant leader for the Christian Community. Because of the struggles which have marred the Church over the years, there are Christian communities which reject the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, as the current occupant of the Chair of Peter. However, in some circles there is hope that our Lord's desire the night before he died that we all be one is closer than ever before: "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." [John 17:21]
We can all at least agree that the work of the Holy Spirit, which our Lord left us, is at work in us and among us, when we work together in service of others, in unity and peace. The gates of hell won't prevail in dividing us forever. It is so clear in the last chapter of John's gospel that the mission of service which Jesus gives to Peter, and all those who sit in his chair, is one of feeding his sheep.
We can also agree that when we are baptized into Jesus, we all take on this shepherding, feeding, serving, uniting mission as well. However we use our gifts, as parents, business people, elderly - whatever our state of life and way of life - we all share this role of helping our Lord's desire come true.
I've just had the privilege of spending time with two Jesuits who serve among the tribal peoples of North East India. They spoke of the powerful work they do to work among and protect the most vulnerable, particularly women and children. They also spoke of the whole mission of evangelization in a very exciting way. Part of the natural process of each tribe's coming to its identity is to see itself in distinction to other tribes. This can lead to conflicts and, at times, to ongoing conflicts and violence. Preaching the gospel involves helping those tribes find common ground, through alternative ways of resolving disputes, which take nothing from each tribe's identity, but which build unity and strength from what they can do together. I was moved to see this mission of proclaiming the gospel as intimately involved with the mission of being at the service of the Spirit's work of unity and peace.
Father, I pray that the Pope Benedict, and all who will occupy the Chair of Peter, might be your servants in the work of your Holy Spirit among us. May his role of teaching and feeding us lead us all to act justly on behalf of those most in need, and work to gather the whole world in its mission of serving the common good. May each of us respond to Jesus' love for us by feeding his sheep in the calling each of us has received.
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