Christ’s foundation on Peter abides

Bishop of Rome and Father of the Church

An excerpt from Sermo 3 de natali ipsius

Optional Memorial: Pope Saint John XXIII

Beloved, I am both weak and lazy in fulfilling the obligations of my office; whenever I try to act with vigor and devotedness, the frailty of our human condition slows me down. Yet I share in the ever-present atoning work of that almighty and eternal high priest, who is like us and yet equal to the Father; he brought the godhead down to our human level and raised our humanity to the godhead. Rightly, then, do we rejoice in what he established; for, though he delegated to many shepherds the care of his sheep, he has not ceased to watch over in person the flock that is dear to him.

It is from this ultimate inexhaustible source of security that we have received strength in our apostolic task; for his activity is never relaxed. The powerful foundation upon which the whole structure of the church rests is never shaken by the weight of the temple that presses upon it.

That faith which Christ commended in the prince of the apostles remains forever unshaken. And, just as Peter’s faith in Christ endures, so does Christ’s foundation upon Peter. The structure of truth persists; blessed Peter retains his rock-like strength and has not abandoned the helm of the Church which he took over.

Peter is called the rock; he is declared to be the foundation; he is made doorkeeper of the heavenly kingdom; he is made judge of what is to be bound or loosed, and his judgments remain valid even in heaven; in these various ways he is assigned a rank above the others. By reflecting on the hidden meaning of these titles of his, we can come to appreciate how close he is to Christ.

In our day he carries out his trust over a wider field and with greater power; he attends to every department of his duties in and along with him who gave him that dignity.

And so, if I do anything well, if my judgment is sound, if I obtain anything from God’s mercy by my daily prayer, all this is due to the achievement and the deserts of Peter; it is his power that lives on in his See, it is his prestige that reigns.

This, beloved, is the outcome of that profession of faith which God the Father inspired in the apostle’s heart. That declaration rose above the doubts of all merely human opinion, and took on the solidarity of a rock unshaken by any outside pressure.

For in the world-wide Church, every day Peter declares: you are the Christ, the Son of the living God, and every man who acknowledges the Lord is enabled to proclaim what those words mean.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen