I took Peter as my confirmation name. I was only eight years old and I am not sure why I choose this name at the time. Now I am pleased that I did. Not that I had ambitions to be the boss but here was a man with a very flawed character whom Jesus chose on which to build his church.
Today we have the feast of the “Chair of Peter”. This feast commemorates Jesus choosing Peter to sit in his place as the “servant authority of the whole Church.” In the gospel today we hear the familiar words spoken to Peter by Jesus: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
In St Peter’s in Rome you can see Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s great sculpture which contains the ancient relic from the early centuries of Christianity. It is a wooden throne encased in bronze given to Pope John VIII by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald in 875. Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI said that the chair “symbolises the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity.”
Many of you might be aware of Patrick van dear Vorst daily reflection on the gospel alongside a work of art. Today he shows a very striking painting by Peter Paul Rubens, in which “we see Saint Peter holding both keys, representing the power of loosing and binding on earth [the silver key pointing downwards) and in heaven (the gold key pointing upwards). His eyes are particularly well painted, beaming with faith and resolve looking up to heaven from where the light in our painting is emanating.”
Lord we thank you for the example and inspiration of Peter the rock. Be with us as a church that we continue to be faithful and unswerving in preaching and living the gospel today, welcome or unwelcome.