Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

“Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Rock (Peter) and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:17-18). It can seem astonishing that Jesus called a man as imperfect as Simon “rock” (Peter means “rock”) and that, furthermore, he intends to build the Church, the instrument by which man is to be saved, on this very imperfect man. Let us recall the question that we reflected upon yesterday with regards to Jesus: “What sort of man is this?” (Mt 8:27) We must affirm with the tradition that Jesus is true God and true man, but as regards Peter, we can only affirm that Peter is really a man; there is nothing divine about Peter. Nonetheless, this man, who is but a creature, has been chosen by the Father to be the first to affirm that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). And, recalling Mt 14:29, we must also affirm that, as a man—and nothing but a man—Peter also walks on water in obedience to Jesus, for a time, anyway (until he begins to doubt). Though this is an extraordinary sign—and a remarkable indication of that which God prepares for us in our humanity (“you will do greater things than these!” –Jn 14:12)—it is in John 21 that Jesus most clearly indicates Peter’s special role in the Church that Jesus entrusts to his care. What Jesus establishes through this rock cannot be limited to mere leadership and organizational concerns. Do we really believe Jesus when he tells Peter, “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” (Mt 16:18-19)?

June 29th, 2016