It is always a particularly blessed event when the readings from Kempis (1,17) and the day’s Scripture (1 Pt 5:1-4) align so perfectly. On this Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Apostle, we have such a happy occasion.
Kempis, in this chapter, deals with the religious life. Peter, as part of the first ordination at the Last Supper, and now pope (see the note below), speaks to his presbyters (from which we get “priest”). The first among the apostles exhorts them to imitate the Good Shepherd, Jesus, in tending their flocks well; key to this is humility and service. They are not to “lord it over” their followers but to imitate the Lord in tending to the needs of the people or, as Kempis says, “to serve, not to govern.”
We are to be grateful to God for all the wonderful priests who selflessly serve the Church. Let us support them by helping, volunteering, encouraging, and outdoing each other in generosity (see Rom 12:10). Of course, most importantly, pray for your parish priests, and for all priests in the world (and those in purgatory), daily. It is not an easy life but the benefits are out of this world, since those who are faithful in their duties, as Peter concludes, “will receive the unfading crown of glory” (v. 5). May more men heed the call to this special vocation through our intercession, as Jesus requested: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Mt 9:37-38)
An important side note: today’s Gospel not only give us the institution of the papacy, but also of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Peter is the Rock on whom the Church (the only time Jesus says this word in the Gospels) is built. Remember Matthew 16!
Let us pray in special way this day, but throughout the year, for the occupant of the Chair of Peter, that he will be strengthened in mind, body, and spirit by the Holy Ghost. May he be an exemplar of his master and ours, Jesus the Christ.