There is no doubt that our Church has been under attack throughout the centuries – both from within and without. Today’s gospel reading gives me great hope!
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon 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,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:13-19
Satan would love more than anything to tear down our faith, and destroy the Church. Jesus reassures us, however, that no matter how bleak things may seem – “The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Praise God!
In reading to my students today, I learned something very interesting about the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. I assumed that the feast was named as such, due to Peter being the first “Pope,” and due to the hierarchical nature of the Catholic Church. I found out that in ancient Rome, there was a feast set aside each year to remember the deceased members of one’s family. This would take place in late February. A banquet was held to honor the dead, and a place was set at the table to remember them. This place was held with an empty chair. Because the early Christians were unsure of the actual date of Peter’s death, they remembered him with an “empty chair” feast on February 22.