The liturgy celebrates today not so much that Peter was the bishop of Rome than what his function is. In answer to Peter’s profession of faith, Jesus appoints him the Rock on which the Church is built. As Peter himself knew very well, the shepherd is the model of his flock, dedicated to the service of the people of God.
Opening Prayer
Almighty God,
you have given us the witnessing of the apostles
as the firm rock on which we can rely.
Where Peter is, there is the Church.
But we see today that the bark of Peter is rocked;
we are often like capricious children
unused to our newfound freedom.
Make us use this freedom responsibly
and do not allow us to lose our composure.
Reassure us that you are always with us
and keep us optimistic about the future,
for it is your future
and you are our rock for ever. Amen!
1 Reading: 1 Peter 5:1-4
Beloved: I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Responsorial Psalm: PS 23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6
R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul. R.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage. R.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. R.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come. R.
Gospel Acclamation: Matthew 16:18
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church;
the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!
Gospel: Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
The impetuous Peter, who famously lacked courage later on, had courage on this occasion. “You are the Christ,” he said, “the Son of the Living God.” Jesus confirmed this with extraordinary emphasis, “It is not fresh and blood that revealed this to you, Peter, but my Father in heaven.” He said to Peter, equivalently, “You have spoken with the voice of God!” Peter must have been walking on air. But not for long! Later, when they were coming down the mountain and Jesus began to speak about the suffering and death he would have to face, Peter protested strongly (he was probably still feeling very important after that extraordinary confirmation). “Get behind me, Satan!” said Jesus, with fury. (It must have been with fury, because these were extraordinarily harsh words.) Poor Peter!—speaking one moment with the voice of God, and next moment with the voice of Satan! The heights and the depths! Of all the people in the New Testament he was the least like a rock! That nickname must have been a joke. But Jesus said to him, “On this Rock (petrós, in Greek) I will build my Church.” Rocks are unchangeable, immobile—and also dead; but Peter was highly changeable, and a very living being.
For the Church in our day, that the Holy Spirit may guide it through the present pains of renewal, keep it faithful to the Gospel and speak its message in the language of our time, we pray: Lord, remember your Church.
For the Pope, Peter’s successor, that he may be our rock of faith and the sign of unity of the Church, we pray:
For our bishops, that they may exercise their authority as a service to building community; for priests and religious, that they may bear witness to what they preach by their way of living the Gospel, we pray:
For missionaries, that they may proclaim the Gospel as Good News for all and help each people and culture to encounter Christ each in their own way, we pray:
Lord, be with the Church until the end of time, as promised by Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
Prayer over the Gifts
Accept our prayer and gifts, Lord God,
and guide your Church to your safe port.
Help us to rid ourselves of the dead-weight
of cumbersome, self-made human traditions
and teach us, in a way adapted to our times,
to seek the ageless renewal given us in the Gospel
of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord for ever. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
Lord our God,
on this feast of your apostle Peter
you have nourished us
with the body and blood of Christ.
We pray you today:
May the unifying force of the Eucharist
dispel all unhealthy division in the Church.
May there be no unbridgeable chasms between us
but may legitimate differences of thought
lead to a deepening of our faith.
May all co-exist in peace and unity
as we seek to understand your message better.
We ask you this through Christ, our Lord. Amen!
Who do we say Jesus is? With Peter we profess that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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