Central Idea: Christ is our King, but Peter and the Apostles are his princes. Doctrine: The primacy of Peter and his successors. Practical Application: Love for the pope and one’s bishop.
To view the Lectionary 48 readings, click here.
Central Idea: Christ is our King, but Peter and the Apostles are his princes
Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
- The Sanhedrin complains that the Apostles have disobediently filled Jerusalem with their teaching about Christ. Peter boldly repeats the core of that “forbidden” doctrine to these religious and political leaders:
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
- The Apostles and the Holy Spirit, Peter says, are witnesses to this truth: the Apostles by their preaching, the Holy Spirit by outward miracles and people’s inner transformation.
- Peter’s answer to the Sanhedrin is also good advice for us today when political leaders and activists, the media, and academia try to squash our religious freedom: “We must obey God rather than men.”
- The Apostles rejoiced “that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name,” finding their Master’s eighth beatitude to be true:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt 6:10-12)
Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13
“I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.”
- In Psalm 30, the words David spoke to God are words that apply to every servant of God, especially to Christ in his human nature and to every one of us.
- Psalm 30 is an example of how the Scriptures predicted the Resurrection of Christ, though it is easy to see how it was missed.
“O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld; you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.”
“At nightfall, weeping enters in, but with the dawn, rejoicing.”
- Before nightfall Our Lord’s body was sealed in the tomb and then with the dawn of the third day, he rose to our great joy.
- John’s vision is a revelation of the exalted status of Jesus Christ.
- The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity humbled himself, uniting to himself a full human nature. He did this so he could be the Lamb of God, our ransom. Now the resurrected human-divine Son sits at the right hand of the Father, where he and the Father, receive from every person who is in a right relationship with them—both angels and redeemed men—due adoration.
- To assert this status for Jesus Christ was unthinkable sacrilege for the Jews and it got St. Stephen stoned to death. It was a blasphemous vision, unless it was true. And it was true.
- In this Gospel, we see the amazing, loving way Christ resolves the “unfinished business” between him and St. Peter, the man he chose to head his fledgling Church. Recall that Peter had not so long before denied his Master three times, just as Christ had predicted.
- Our Lord and Peter must have had a private conversation in the minutes before Peter’s six companions got the fish-laden net dragged to shore. We have no idea what that conversation was about. I suspect it included Peter’s asking for and receiving forgiveness.
- When the others arrive, Our Lord enacts a living parable. He has breakfast ready for them and then asks them to make their own contribution to it. The fish they add to the charcoal fire were provided by Christ’s miracle and their labor.
- This was the Mandatum, or washing of feet at the Last Supper, in another form. I have fed you, now you go do the same for my followers. To it, Our Lord adds the note, Your efforts will be necessary but I will see it will be accomplished.
- After feeding his disciples out of love, Our Lord asks Peter three times if he loves him and then tells him to feed his lambs or sheep.
- In his thrice-repeated question and response, Christ was not rebuking Peter for denying him; after all, it was understandable weakness, and afterwards, Peter wept, cut to the heart.
- But Christ had chosen Peter to be his chief fisher of men. Just as Christ had originally “caught” Peter with a miraculous draught of fish, here he announces himself again to Peter with another miraculous catch, 153 fish, interestingly the same number of fish as there were nations, according to the Greek reckoning.
- Christ restores Peter’s leadership, making his mission utterly simple: “Feed my lambs.” Who are his lambs? Everyone, beginning with those who say yes to the Gospel.
- Christ says, in effect, “Peter, when you serve those over whom I have placed you, you are proving your love for me. And one day you will give up your life for me, just like I gave up my life for all of you.”
Doctrine: The Primacy of Peter and his successors
- Given we have a brand new pope [note: this was originally written seven years ago] and a pope emeritus, it could be good to recall some basic doctrine about the role of Peter and his successors and the Apostles and theirs.
- What we have just seen in action in John’s Gospel, the Catechism summarizes in this way:
To proclaim the faith and to plant his reign, Christ sends his apostles and their successors. He gives them a share in his own mission. From him they receive the power to act in his person. (935)
The Lord made St. Peter the visible foundation of his Church. He entrusted the keys of the Church to him. The bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to St. Peter, is “head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth” (CIC, can. 331). (936)
The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, “supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls” (CD 2). (937)
The Bishops, established by the Holy Spirit, succeed the apostles. They are “the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches” (LG 23). (938)
Helped by the priests, their co-workers, and by the deacons, the bishops have the duty of authentically teaching the faith, celebrating divine worship, above all the Eucharist, and guiding their Churches as true pastors. Their responsibility also includes concern for all the Churches, with and under the Pope. (939)
Practical Application: Love for the pope and one’s bishop
- Western culture has undergone a monumental and largely unrecognized shift.
- The generation of World War II generally had the attitude that if someone in authority said something was your duty, then you ought to try to carry it out. It respected authority and thought it was a good idea to obey it.
- Now people see themselves acting only voluntarily, doing what they do because they want to. It is a good thing to make up your own mind and act according to your conscience. However, this generation often actually obeys the world, the flesh, and the devil, provided for us in a neat and modern-looking package by the media, academia, and politicians.
- We Catholics have this same “drag” away from obedience to just authority.
- However, obedience to God, to just laws, to our parents if we are young, to the moral law, should be our moral compass.
- Maybe we need to review the history of obedience. Adam and Eve’s sin was disobedience. Christ redeemed us by his obedience to his Father’s will. We owe Christ, through the Magisterium of the Church either “the obedience of faith” (CCC 891) or “religious assent” (CCC 892), depending on the circumstances.
- Just as in earlier days it may have been easy to obey—even wrongly—today it may be hard to obey—even the best directions.
- If we add love to that good obedience, it will make it easier, just as Peter followed Christ because he loved him. To foster a more proper obedience to the pastors of our Church we can do the following:
- We should pray for Pope Francis and our bishop every day.
- We should also have our “ear” out for what the pope and our bishop are saying. We can do this by reading what they write. Because of the Internet, this is easier than it ever has been.
- In our own diocese, we should consider the cathedral as much our home church as our parish and attend Mass there from time to time.
- As we get to know the Holy Father and our own bishop, we should go in the direction that he wants us to go.
- For example, we are still in the Year of Faith, inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and are being asked to understand our faith better and live it more deeply.
- Many bishops in the U.S. are asking us to educate ourselves and get involved in defending conscience rights in resisting the HHS “mandate” and in upholding natural marriage.
- It may be that Pope Francis will ask us to focus more on living our faith through service to the poor and through evangelization.
- Almost all of the above was written at the beginning of Francis’ pontificate. Looking back on this time, I offer the following reflections.
- A part of the reason that many people today have little regard for authority is the abuse of authority. In the Church, faithful Catholics have endured sixty years of abuse. The sad truth is that many bishops, priests, and theologians have been doctrinal heretics and moral reprobates.
- For example, while my diocesan bishop is orthodox and courageous and the priests of my parish are everything a layperson could ask for, the bishop of this diocese for fifteen years prior to the millenium was a bad shepherd.
- Therefore, when it comes to the virtue of obedience to any authority, whether civil or ecclesiastical, we have to practice it with prudence.