Protestants often view the Pope as some kind of all-powerful religious figure over Catholics like some kind of a dictator. Or, at least, that is the impression I get when this subject comes up with non-Catholics. However, today's readings point to something very different.
You'll notice that I now have a link on the side bar of this blog directly to the day's readings. Very convienent! Hope you enjoy that added feature.
All three of the passages from the Bible read at Daily Masses today point to the leader of the One Church as a shepherd. The first reading is from St. Peter himself. Not only that, but today's feast day is the Feast of the Chair of Peter. How appropriate! Peter tells the other church leaders to whom he is speaking to be examples to their flocks. Then we move to the Psalm, one of the best known Psalms: #23: The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.
Finally the Gospel passage from Matthew. This is the passage where first Jesus asks who the people say He is. Then He asks Simon Peter who he thinks He is. Peter proclaims Jesus as the Son of God! Jesus then blesses Simon Peter and calls him the Rock that he will build his Church on. Thus his name is now Peter for petra which means rock. Not only that (it just gets better and better, doesn't it!) but He says he will give Peter "the keys to the keys to the Kingdom of heaven." Peter was the first Pope, and it is at this moment that he has that distinction because Jesus himself gave him that gift. If His church on Earth was to remain One, united church, it needed a leader. You can go back to the first reading to see just how good a leader Peter was, despite his many faults (as is seen later in the Gospels).
The Catholic Church also believes in Apostolic tradition. In the creed that we say at Mass each Sunday we proclaim the church as "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic." Peter was an apostle of Jesus. Jesus gave him the keys to the Kingdom and made him the rock. The Pope (Peter and all his successors) give the leadership of the church to the cardinals, bishops, and priests. Basically it is a direct line (no breaks) from Jesus down to our very own priests today. it's kind of cool to think about!
The Mass readings aren't always so clear, at least not to me. But these are all very clear. For those who question the Pope's position and why we Catholics have a Pope, this is why. It was instituted by Christ himself; hard to argue with that. I heard a wonderful speaker last month sometime give a talk on defending the Pope. She had a lot of great things to say and I could never be as eloquent as she.
However, if you are interested in more information I suggest looking at books on Apologetics. There is a great series called Beginning Apologetics. All of them are fairly thin, but packed with information. They look a little like the workbooks you got in school to accompany a textbook. I looked at Amazon.com and they don't seem to have one devoted to the Holy Father, but I'm guessing that volume 1: How to Explain and Defend the Catholic Faith probably addresses the issue of the Pope. It's worth looking at.
Hope everyone had a good Thursday (I was home sick today). God bless!
Update: Was just browsing through Amazon.com and came across the following title: Upon this Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church by Stephen K. Ray (ISBN-13: 978-0898707236). I have not read this book, but it looks very interesting. Written by someone who was an Evangelical Christian who found his way to the Catholic Church through (it seems) trying to prove the Catholic Church wrong on many matters. If anyone has read this book and would recommend it, I've love to hear from you.