Sunday, August 21, 2011

St. Peter and the Popes


Mt 16:13-20

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
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."
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

This gospel reading is so important in explaining certain truths in the Catholic faith. In today's gospel reading we learn just how important St. Peter is in the church and the great authority Jesus has bestowed on him.

There are many instances in the Bible where we get an idea of how important Peter is:
  • He is mentioned 195 times in Scripture (the next most named Apostle was John who was named 29 times)
  • Peter is always listed first when all the Apostles are listed in scripture (Judas is last)
  • Several times in the Bible it is mentioned "Peter and the twelve"
  • He is the only apostle to get his name changed (I'm not talking about changing from a Roman to a Hebrew name like Paul to Saul)
  • The is the only one given the keys to the kingdom
  • He is the one given the vision that the Gentiles should be admitted into the Church
  • He is the only one who walked on water
  • He is the one who gave the first sermon, the first homily, to the masses after the Ressurection
  • He was the first one to enter Jesus' tomb after the Resurrection
The list could go on forever!  Even when Peter and John went racing to the tomb on the day of Resurrection, John got there first but waited for Peter to go in first, showing a great respect for him.

But today's gospel reading is the clincher.  

"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"

Here we have Jesus saying plain as day: You are rock and on this rock I will build my church.  Jesus singled Peter out to be his ambassador.  He gave Peter His authority to teach, to forgive sins and to preach.  As Catholics we do not believe this command was given to Peter for his generation only!  We believe that this authority has a succession...our present church and the pope. The pope is now the person who does the speaking for Christ and we believe he will know what to say not because he is God but because it has been revealed to him from the Father through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus chose Peter not because he was the most holy apostle, he chose him because he knew him and told him he would protect him.  Just like our pope today.  Our pope does not have to be without flaws or perfect in every way.  What protects us is not the pope's character but the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

A quote by G.K. Chesterton a great Catholic apologist:

When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing his great society, he chose for it's cornerstone neither the brilliant Paul, nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward - in a word, a man.  And upon this rock he has build his Church, and the gates of hell have not prevailed against it.  All the empires and the kingdoms have failed because of this inherent and continual weakness that they were founded by strong men; and upon strong men.  But the historic Christian Church was founded on a weak man and for this reason it is indestructable.  For no chain is stronger than its weakest link. (G.K Chesterton, Heretics, IV)

 






The statistics on the mentioning of Peter in the Bible and the quote from G.K Chesterton was taken from "What Catholics Really Believe" By Dr. Ray Guarendi and Rev. Kevin Fete.  This is an awesome book that does a wonderful job of explaining how to defend the Catholic church and it's teaching. It can be found under the tab "Products I Recommend."

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful commentary on today's Gospel, Nicole!

    My children did the "Holy Heroes" VBS this summer and they talked about today's first reading and Gospel. I really saw my kids' lightbulbs go on when they saw the parallels between the Master of the Palace getting the keys to the earthly kindgom and St. Peter getting the keys to the Heavenly kingdom. The recipe that day was even crown and key cookies! :-)

    Thank you for your thoughtful posts!!
    God bless,
    Lisa
    http://our4kiddos.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete