2/19/2017 12:00 AM
This week, we celebrate one of the stranger feasts that we have in the Church: the Chair of St. Peter. (Insert joke here: you Catholics will celebrate anything!) While it may seem a strange thing to celebrate, it is also an important teaching moment to celebrate as well, because the Chair of Peter is the visible reminder of the unity that exists in the Church, a unity that is guaranteed by staying in communion with that very same chair: the teaching office of the Holy Father.
By having one visible leader to whom we can all look, the Church is better able to respond to the Great Priestly Prayer of Jesus in John 17; as He prays that we might all be one. But it is only in Jesus that we are able to have this unity, a unity that must constantly be cultivated and nourished. When we start to go our own way, whether as a priest, a deacon or a lay person, we start to remove ourselves from the fellowship of the Church. And our spiritual lives become imperiled!
We learn all this from the simplicity of the Chair. In fact, the General Instruction for the Roman Missal indicates that the homily can be preached from the Presider’s Chair, as that was the ancient sign of authority: one who sat to preside at meetings. So the Feast of the Chair of Peter reflects this authority that continues to be held by the pope.
This should give us all great comfort. My salvation does not rest on my own personal interpretation of the Scriptures, but how I enter into the ongoing unfolding of the Scriptures that have been handed down to us through the leadership of the Popes through the ages. Our salvation is handed down as we are invited to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, as hopefully modeled well by the Holy Father, our bishops, priests and deacons!
But the unity that exists in the Church is fragile. We are approaching the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation with Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses on the door of the Church in Wittenberg. As Christians, as disciples, this anniversary should break our hearts, because it impedes our ability to proclaim the Gospel to a post-Christian world; for those on the outside look at the fractures within Christendom and ask, ‘Who is right? They argue so much amongst themselves, how are we to tell?’
Over the next few weeks and months, we will slowly be rolling out some programming to address this fracturing in our midst. Please stay tuned for coming attractions… In the meantime, it seems to be a good idea to pray for the unity of Christendom; for Jesus Himself prayed for the very same thing!
As I return from retreat on this weekend, thank you for your prayers for me while I was away. My prayer during the week was to continue the good work that is already happening in these two wonderful parishes; and to build on the foundation that has been laid in the past.
Finally, I do not say this enough: but it is such a joy to be here in these two parishes, to work with the staff who have such great gifts and to be present to all our wonderful parishioners. I certainly missed you while I was away, and look forward to a great lent together.
Fr. Kyle Schnippel
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