While Papa Beni – (pope number 265)is out there in Madrid preaching up a storm while standing in the midst of one, (how very apt), the reading today is about Christ’s plans for His Church.
Jesus has the twelve standing around Him and his asks “Who do people say I am?” (I don’t think this is one the I AM statements, it being a question, but I could be wrong). The apostles come up with some answers. We could come up with even more and fat worse answers. Some say He is Nice Man, Push over Jesus, Therapy Jesus, Accepts-me-as-I-am-and-doesn’t-want-me-to-change-Jesus. Ditch-your-cross-Jesus and Blind-Eye-Jesus. I am sure there are others out there.
Then Jesus asks them “Who do you say that I am?”
Simon the fisherman, brother of Andrew announces, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Now, to be fair, Simon is not the first person to have recognised who Jesus is. Even if we put aside Our Lady, there is still Nathaniel of Cana. But at this moment, God’s chosen moment, Simon speaks up and Jesus acknowledges the truth of the matter, and that God has inspired Simon.
He then does something very God-like. He changes Simon’s name to Peter – or rather to Cephas the Aramaic form of the name. It survives in some Bibles in this form, presumably because even in the Greek it was written in the Aramaic. [God tends to change the name of those He has chosen to do something big-or to form a Covenant with, such as Abram to Abraham and Jacob to Israel]. They are standing in the shadow of the massive rock at Caesarea Philippi, upon which is perched the pagan temple that Herod had so thoughtfully had built to further his political career.
“You are Peter,” says Jesus, “And upon this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the Underworld will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of Kingdom of heaven, whatsoever you bind on earth is bound and whatsoever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven.” (Take a look at Matthew 16:13-20 if you didn’t get to Mass today)
Now, if you were at Mass, or like me, had to do the readings at home, you will have noticed that the first reading is from Isaiah 22:19-23. This reading is the pre-shadowing of what happens between Jesus and Peter.
First of all the old master is dismissed for being corrupt, just as the old priesthood will be dismissed. Then King Hezekiah who is a type of Christ as he is the immediate fulfilment of Isaiah prophecy that a child would be born – called Eliakim to be his deputy, or Prime Minister. He is entrusted with the robe of authority and receives the keys of the Kingdom. He may open and shut and it will be as he says as he is the peg in the firm place.
But, you might ask, what about those protestants who insist that only Jesus is the rock?
It’s plain from the text and the history of the Church that Jesus isn’t the only rock. Not only is Peter the rock too, but we are told that the Church is the firm foundation, the rock. However, Jesus is the rock that underpins all of His Church – He is the corner-stone. Even Herod’s pagan temple was built on a rock, which would not have been a firm rock if it hadn’t been formed out of the great rock of the earth.
I have come across some amazing contortions by those who refuse to accept the Scripture as it is written. One woman told how her father insisted Jesus was pointing at Peter when He named Him, but at Himself when he was somehow not handing over the authority.
Then there are those who say Jesus never intended Peter or the apostles to hand on their authority. History, however shows very clearly that they did and that this makes sense in that Christ is a King who continues to rule His Kingdom so there is bound to be more ministers for the Kingdom as there is for any kingdom.
Peter’s first act of binding was at the Council of Jerusalem around the year 50 when he said gentile converts did not need to come to Christ through the Mosaic laws of circumcision and kosher food. He said “Baptism now saves you.”