The Word of God has been revealed and enfleshed to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus fully imparted the Will of His Father to us and entrusted His Church–“the keys of the kingdom of heaven” to Peter and his successors, the pope, bishop of Rome. Jesus, telling Peter in Caesarea Philippi that the latter was divinely inspired in his statement that He was the ‘Messiah, the Son of the living God, responded with a declaration giving Peter [meaning, Rock] the authority as supreme, visible head of the Church. “You are ‘Rock,’ and on this rock I will build my Church and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it. I will entrust to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:18-19).
The Church as divinely instituted for humanity has endured amid the trials and persecutions throughout history up to the present, testifying to Jesus’ fidelity to His promise that “the jaws of death shall not prevail” against her. Like Peter, the popes have shepherded as courageous and faithful servants of the Master, proclaiming truth, justice, love and mercy, and ready to embrace suffering as witnesses to Christ’s sacrificial love, “guarding the flock not out of obligation but willing for God’s sake; not as one looking for a reward but with a generous heart…as an example to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2).
The feast of the Chair of St. Peter in February invites us to thank God for the gift of Pope Francis, with his impelling persuasion of ‘mercy and compassion’ as true expression of Jesus’ love, especially for the poor, the sick, the abandoned, the marginalized and lonely folk perhaps wanting of love and understanding in their own families, and the victims of injustice and violence. The pope faces the world speaking with the voice of the unseen Head & Founder Jesus Christ, and sending air-waves of hope to sheep gone astray in search of the true Shepherd. Let us renew our assent to the Magisterium of the pope, in his declarations defined ‘from the chair’ (ex cathedra) as well as all the acts extended to the ordinary Magisterium–the bishops in union with the Roman Pontiff.