“I for My part declare to you, you are ‘Rock,’ and on this rock I will build My Church.” —Matthew 16:18
Jesus is the Carpenter (Mk 6:3). He probably built several chairs out of wood. Like any skilled carpenter, Jesus would have built His chairs to last. The chair would have a firm foundation to prevent toppling and give confidence to the one seated in the chair.
Jesus is also “Head of the Church” (Eph 1:22). As Founder and Head of the Church, Jesus built His Church upon Peter and his successors (Mt 16:18). The pope leads the Church because Jesus planned it that way.
Jesus, the Master Carpenter, has built another chair, the chair of St. Peter. This chair is built not from wood, but from the authority of the pope. It has a firm foundation and the one who sits on that chair will not topple because of the skill of Jesus, its Builder. In fact, even the powers of hell cannot prevail against the Church (Mt 16:18-19). This chair is built to last forever.
Someday, Jesus will be sitting in another chair, the Judgment Seat (see Mt 25:31). He will ask you to render an account of your life (Heb 4:13). When Jesus asks you how you respected and followed the authority of the one who sat in the chair of St. Peter, the chair He Himself built, how will you answer Him?
Prayer: Jesus, I’ve spent too much time reclining in an easy chair instead of serving You (1 Pt 4:2-3). I repent of any rebellion against Your authority and Your Church. I give You my love and my life.
Promise: “When the chief Shepherd appears you will win for yourselves the unfading crown of glory.” —1 Pt 5:4
Praise: “The Holy Spirit descended upon all who were listening to Peter’s message” (Acts 10:44).
From a sermon
Saint Leo the Great, pope
[ 461 A.D. ]
The Lord now asks the apostles as a whole what men think of him. As long as they are recounting the uncertainty born of human ignorance, their reply is always the same.Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of his power that God in his goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that he has given to others what he has not refused to bestow on them.
But when he presses the disciples to say what they think themselves, the first to confess his faith in the Lord is the one who is first in rank among the apostles.
Peter says: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replies: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” You are blessed, he means, because my Father has taught you. You have not been deceived by earthly opinion, but have been enlightened by inspiration from heaven. It was not flesh and blood that pointed me out to you, but the one whose only-begotten Son I am.
He continues: And I say to you. In other words, as my Father has revealed to you my godhead, so I in my turn make known to you your pre-eminence. You are Peter:though I am the inviolable rock, the cornerstone that makes both one, the foundation apart from which no one can lay any other, yet you also are a rock, for you are given solidity by my strength, so that which is my very own because of my power is common between us through your participation.
And upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. On this strong foundation, he says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of my Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith.
The gates of hell shall not silence this confession of faith; the chains of death shall not bind it. Its words are the words of life. As they lift up to heaven those who profess them, so they send down to hell those who contradict them.
Blessed Peter is therefore told: To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is also bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven.
The authority vested in this power passed also to the other apostles, and the institution established by this decree has been continued in all the leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter received it separately in trust because he is the prototype set before all the rulers of the Church.
Jonah was a reluctant, begrudging prophet. He did not want to obey the Lord. Yet he didn’t want to be in the belly of a whale either.
However, the wicked Ninevites did not repent with begrudging, complaining reluctance. Incredibly, “they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth” (Jon 3:5). They had sinned with abandon, and they repented with much greater abandon.
The queen of the south “came from the farthest corner of the world to listen to the wisdom of Solomon” (Lk 11:31). She spared no cost to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
Christianity is not for the lukewarm, half-hearted Jonahs. Rather, Christianity is for the zealous, whole-hearted, radically “violent” who take God’s kingdom by force (see Mt 11:12). Christianity is not for those who lock themselves up in the death-row prison of minimalism, for the letter of the law kills (2 Cor 3:6). Rather, Christianity is for those who do the law and in the Spirit go beyond the law to the abundant life (2 Cor 3:6; Jn 10:10).
Therefore, go to other daily Masses in addition to Sundays. Go to Confession frequently. Fast daily during Lent and frequently throughout the year. Go beyond tithing to almsgiving. Pray with others frequently. Change your lifestyle for Jesus. Tell others about Jesus, even if you may be persecuted. Live for Jesus in radical love and freedom.
Prayer: Jesus, light a fire on this earth (Lk 12:49), and let that fire begin in my heart.
Promise: “Have mercy on me, O God, in Your goodness; in the greatness of Your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.” —Ps 51:3-4
Praise: St. Peter Damian’s teachings guided the Church a thousand years ago and still persevere today.