Friday, February 22, 2013

Day 10-preparing for the empty chair

Today, as every year, the church celebrates the Chair of Peter. To our modern mind it may seem odd, and it is in fact the only feast in the calendar dedicated to a piece of furniture. The chair,cathedra, has from earliest times been the symbol of the authority of a bishop, in much the same way a judge's authority is still symbolized in the bench.

This year the feast takes on a unique significance, as for the first time in six centuries the occupant of the Chair of Peter is choosing to relinquish the position for the greater good of the Church, modeling for us the call in the gospel to put others ahead of ourselves.

Today in a special way we pray for the current occupant of the Chair, and we pray for whomever the Holy Spirit chooses to be the next occupant. In our arrogance, we often speak of the president as "the most powerful man in the world." And yet, the world Catholic population is more than 3 times that of the US, encompassing a multitude of countries, languages, and cultures. The primary role of the occupant of the chair of Peter remains today what it always was, to continue fishing for people, and to see that,in the words from the end of John's gospel, "Even though there were so many, the net was not torn." Over the centuries, the net has be stretched and strained, but by God's grace we continue to carry out our mission into a third millennium.