Sunday, February 22nd, 2009
Though the celebration of the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time took precedence over it, today’s feast of the Chair of Peter should not pass without some notice. In fact, earlier today the Holy Father took the opportunity in his Angelus address to mention it, reflecting on the duties of the Petrine Office and asking the world’s faithful for their prayers as he seeks to fulfill its duties faithfully.
These past few weeks have not been easy ones for Pope Benedict, and his request for prayers is as touching as it is necessary. May Christ, whose Vicar he is, keep our Holy Father strong in faith, firm in hope, and ardent in love as he shepherds the Church through the dangers of this world to the safety and peace of the next.
February 22, 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The Gospel passage that today’s Sunday liturgy offers for our meditation is the one in which the paralytic is forgiven and healed (Mark 2:1-12). While Jesus was preaching, among the many sick people who were brought to him, a paralytic was brought to him on a mat. Seeing him, the Lord said: “Son, your sins are forgiven you” (Mark 2:5). And because some of those present were scandalized on hearing these words, he added: “‘So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth’ — he said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home’” (Mark 2:10-11). And the paralytic went away healed. This Gospel episode shows that Jesus has the power not only to heal the sick body but also to forgive sins; and indeed, the physical healing is a sign of the spiritual healing that his forgiveness produces. In effect, sin is a kind of paralysis of the spirit, from which only the power of the merciful love of God can liberate us, allowing us to pick ourselves up and set out again along the path of goodness.
This Sunday is also the feast of the Chair of Peter, an important liturgical feast that highlights the office of the successor of the Prince of the Apostles. The chair of Peter symbolizes the authority of the Bishop of Rome, who is called to perform a special service for the whole People of God. Immediately after the martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul, the primacy of the Church of Rome in the Catholic community was recognized. This role was already attested to in the 2nd century by St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Romans, Pref.: Funk, I, 252) and by St. Irenaeus of Lyons (Contra Haereses, III, 3, 2-3). This singular and specific ministry of the Bishop of Rome was stressed again by the Second Vatican Council. “Moreover, within the Church,” we read in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “particular Churches hold a rightful place; these Churches retain their own traditions, without in any way opposing the primacy of the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity (cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans, Pref.) and protects legitimate differences, while at the same time assuring that such differences do not hinder unity but rather contribute toward it” (Lumen Gentium, 13).
Dear brothers and sister, this feast provides me with the occasion to ask you to accompany me with your prayers, so that I may faithfully carry out this great task, entrusted to me by Providence, as successor to the Apostle Peter. We invoke the Virgin Mary, whom we celebrated yesterday, here in Rome, under the title of Our Lady of Confidence. We ask her to help us to enter into the Lenten season — which will begin on Wednesday with the evocative Rite of Ashes — with devout dispositions of soul. May Mary open our hearts to conversion and to a docile listening to the Word of God.