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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Peter & the Papacy

Every year we celebrate the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle. It is an occasion of great joy for us in the Western Church. Twenty centuries have passed and still this central chair of our Church stands firm. However, the sadness of this celebration and teaching is that Peter who should be for all Christians a focus of unity has instead become a point of controversy and division. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters, while willing to recognize him with their bishops as the first among equals, cannot yet work out among our churchmen a mutually acceptable view of his primatial authority. The Lutherans are willing to admit some sort of role for him as the ecumenical seat of the Church but not as one who could officially and infallibly teach. The Anglicans find difficulty in regards to the tension between the papacy and the role of their conferences and nationalist leadership. And some of our Baptist friends, like the late Pastor Jerry Falwell would not accept him as a full associate unless he dressed in business suits, got rid of the rituals and “costumes,” and slid down slides for money at amusement parks. (Pastor Falwell did that stunt when he took over operation of an amusement park once owned by Baker’s PTL ministry.) I mention all this lest we forget how others sometimes see us and the one whom we discern as Christ’s Vicar on earth.

As a fan of history I cannot help but remark about that title “vicar.” At first, those who were the bishops of Rome were actually called the Vicars of Peter and only later was this term redefined as the Vicar of Christ. After all, he is the one who is visible on earth replacing or better, representing Christ to the Church in the See or Chair of Peter. Of course, Peter had not always been in Rome. Even though he founded his see there, it was the place of his death. Earlier he founded the See of Antioch which was then the capital of the East. Saint Gregory the Great claimed that Peter was Bishop of Antioch for seven years. It is because of this that this feast was formerly commemorated on January 18 in honor of the Roman Pontificate and on February 22 in honor of his governance in Antioch.

Peter in 1 Peter 5:1-4 admonishes his friends to be examples to the flock in their generosity and humility. It is no wonder that the successors of Peter, despite all their worldly titles should still cling to the most humble title imaginable in being called “the Servant of the Servants of God.” Peter learned well his lesson when he at first had refused to allow the Master to wash his feet. The Lord told him that unless he allowed it, he could have no part of him. After the Paschal Mystery, it is Peter who would emerge as the one to most humble himself and to shepherd the People of God. Unlike Judas who betrayed the Lord and despaired; Peter recovered from his denial of Christ, and became the visible and humble bedrock of Christ’s Church. His are the keys of Christ which invite even the most grievous sinner to seek and receive forgiveness. This same Peter would follow Christ all the way to his own crucifixion on an inverted cross. Peter died, but his chair did not. Our Holy Father today wields the same keys to the kingdom which were used by Peter, keys which seek to open our hearts to God’s truth and mercy. The Church shows us the light of Christ in a world still stumbling in darkness. The Church is the compassion of God in a cold world. May we always see in the Chair of Peter the source of our historical and spiritual unity to the living legacy of Christ.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.