How blessed we are, that Christ Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep and tend his lambs – and told
him alone, as our first Pope. How blessed we are, that Christ built his Church upon Rock, upon Peter, and him alone, though with all the apostles as foundations and Christ as cornerstone. How blessed we are, to have St. Peter and successors to keep us unified in things like the teachings of the Church, knowing which Councils are Ecumenical ones, which books belong in the Bible as trsutworthy and inspired!
Knowing what comes from God and what doesn’t, we have only to hear and obey, which is much
simpler for us. Despite abuses, turmoil and confusion within the Church and without, we have some
bedrock assurance! As some authors have said, having a papal authority may be bad, but the other
possible forms of governing Church would be worse! It reminds us of the old story about Napoleon
wanting to destroy the Church, and the papal secretary's reply. Pope has infallibility, not impeccability, and there have been times when the Church seems to have survived despite its pastors, not because of them. As that secretary was pointing out, we hadn't been able to destroy the Church ourselves for over a thousand years -- so how could Napoleon expect do it?
It's a mess at times, this Church, and sometimes a downright scary mess, but Jesus chose Judas to
become one of His apostles, and made impulsive Peter our first pope; why, He even lets us become
members of his mystical body, offers to save us – and so, Church is messy! But it’s a God-given mess for which we can be grateful. Jesus guaranteed a few things, but not comfort and tidiness, and He didn't guarantee that everybody in Church would respond instantly to His call to holiness and perfection, nor that things would go smoothly. He "merely" said He'd be with us always, that the gates of hell would not prevail, that Peter should tend and feed his sheep and lambs, and so on. It may be a mess, but it’s a mess that He chose and welcomed us into, and for our spritual formation and salvation.
Sometimes when Church gets a bit too much for me, I recall earlier times; I'd have had a harder
time living when, for instance, there was a really long interregnum in the papacy, or when there were simultaneously two or even three who were convinced they were each Pope, with persuasive claims to being pope, or when the Vatican offices were illiterate, or when a particular pope was dwelling in amazing luxury or living a blatantly sinful life. Those would be hard times to live in. The main thing, though, is that we do have the faith given by Christ, and we can do our level best to live in faith, and rely on a good and loving, forgiving God. It's wonderful in our own time that we have such easy access to the Bible, the best commentaries (and can set aside the worst!), frequent sacraments encouraged, and so on. Wow! Despite the mess, how very blessed we are!
And so may the good Lord bless us and keep us, guide us and sustain us, granting us to be, as He
is, merciful and humble, generous and willing to suffer when needed for following Him, through the
messes and hardships, past seductive luxuries and temptations, clean on into His eternal Kingdom!
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Footnote: Both critics and proponents of the papacy are cordially invited to read a very well thought out book that lays out the many sides of many issues very plainly and well: Pope Peter, by Joe Heschmeyer, c.2020 (Catholic Answers Press) – a joy to read! It’s a genuine pleasure to follow along his arrangement and the lines of thought from Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics concerned with the issues, and learn what people have thought.