I have a favorite CHAIR I love to perch myself on, not only because it is comfortable (it reclines beautifully), but because it sits in front of a window giving me a view of my neighborhood. Indeed, it is a CHAIR with a view, and capital letters are for a purpose: today’s Feast is about a CHAIR...the chair of Peter’s teaching authority. The “chair” became synonymous with being seated while teaching. The one seated on the “chair” had authority: the king/queen, the teacher, the bishop.
In the famous gospel passage from Matthew, Peter correctly answers the question posed by Jesus asking the Twelve who they believe him to be. Peter’s answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” was given to him by the Father in heaven, not to the others, hence Peter’s unique role. He is the first among the Apostles, given the power of the keys of authority. After Peter died, another was chosen to take his place, creating the first Pope. There are 264 successors to Peter.
I hope and pray the current successor to Peter has a favorite CHAIR, not just the symbolic one depicting authority, a real life chair that he lives to sit in, that gives him a view beyond the beautiful gardens that grace where he lives. Maybe his “chair” might give him a glimpse of the countless pilgrims entering and leaving St. Peter’s Square, allowing him to see on a daily basis the width and depth of the human family.
I pray his “authority” be rooted in service, in love, in being a bridge builder WITHIN our Church. I pray he moves a bit more in the background, not making sure he says something that is public every day. I pray, like John the Baptist, the Pope decreases more, reminding himself first, than his flock, that the light needs to shine on Christ, not the successor of Peter. I pray that the pope will remind us who are leaders in the Church, to lead and teach with love, respect and humility. True Christ-like authority is given freely when the one who leads, leads in love...respect... and humility.