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A Sign of Mercy and Unity

Thursday, February 22, 2007
Feast of the Chair of St Peter

Readings: 1 Peter 5:1-4; Psalm 23; Matthew 16:13-19.

The Lord said to Simon Peter: I have prayed that your faith may not fail; and you in your turn must strengthen your brothers.
(Lk 22:32; Entrance antiphon)

We have barely begun to settle into our Lenten fast and the Church calls us to this feast and to sing the ‘Gloria’ which we have only just suppressed. Perhaps the Gospel text: You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church brings to mind the triumphal majesty of St Peter’s Basilica with Peter’s chair – throne, in fact – lifted high in the apse and the pomp of the papacy. It’s all a rather marked contrast with the sombre penitential tones of Ash Wednesday.

Or is it?

The Pope is called to be "a sign of mercy” and a servant of ecclesial unity – a heavy cross, given the obvious dis-unity in Christ’s Church. At the heart of this ministry is Peter’s “human weakness and his special need of conversion” which we all share, and are conscious of particularly in Lent. As God's people we are to “manifest to a world ensnared by its sins and evil designs that, despite everything, God in his mercy can convert hearts to unity and enable them to enter into communion with him”. Hence St Cyprian warns: “To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.

This Lent, we pray for profound conversion so that, following Peter, we may learn that Christian discipleship is borne in humble service. When we come to Maundy Thursday thus renewed, we can whole-heartedly sing: “Where charity and love are, there is God…”

* * * * *

The above quotations are from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Ut unum sint.

Lawrence Lew OP


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