On Peter He Builds His Church
Are you ever curious about what people say or think of you? In today’s liturgy, Jesus starts off a conversation with his disciples, wanting to know what people think of him. The disciples gave their responses comparing him to one of the esteemed prophets; however, the Lord presses his inquiry as if to say he wanted more answer from them: “And you, who do you, say that I am?” Peter offered a profound response on behalf of the group. “You are the Messiah… the Son of the Living God. This profession of Peter says it all; Jesus is more than the Messiah that has been expected for centuries. He is also our Lord, our God., and they have come to believe. This recognition is quite astonishing.
For a simple fisherman brought up in the religious tradition of the Hebrew people where the name of God was not pronounced for fear of blasphemy, dares to utter these words. It is not simply the astonishing fact that he can picture a human being as God. Peter saw beyond the appearance of Jesus as a carpenter from Nazareth, the son of Joseph and Mary. He says what a pious Jew would hardly dare to say: “You are God!” In return Jesus displays his confidence in Peter.
On Peter he will build his Church, “and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.” Peter was given power to let people enter the kingdom or to keep them out. We do know that the Church, the community of believers, is not Peter’s of course; it is Christ’s. It is he who gets it together, builds it, and directs it. But Peter is the foundation on which the various parts of the Church are assembled and brought into harmony.
What is more, he enjoys the power to bind and loosen. Nothing is pure or completed in the earthly Church as it journeys towards the kingdom. Peter will have the task of serving the Church by showing discernment. It is he who will be able to judge , whether the members of the church are living in conformity with Christ’s plan. Peter’s mission continues in the person of Pope Francis, the vicar of Christ and successor or Saint Peter.
Jesus shows us the role and importance he wishes to give to the Church. If you want to know Christ and live in communion with him, you cannot eliminate the Church. Nor can we ignore Peter’s mandate. Why did he choose to entrust his mission and church to mere human beings? He could have revealed himself directly to everyone and communicated his Spirit without going to a community that will ever remain fallible?
St. Paul gives insight to our question in today’s Epistle: “Who has known the mind of the Lord…? We must understand what Church is. “Church is not the guardian of some venerable human culture or civilization. It is not a dispenser of moral security or comforting religious stability. It is not the protector of some particular political or social order. Rather, the Church was set up to help us discern Christ’s activity in ourselves and the world; to help us live in accordance with Christ’s activity so that we might gain access to the kingdom.”
The Church is necessary and precious despite her members’ many faults. She possesses the fullness of the words of life. Only she has at her command the creative energy of the sacraments. Only she opens the door to the kingdom. Let us thank God for giving us St. Peter and the witness of his total faith. Let us thank him for having set up the Church and putting it at our disposal. The Church, such as it is, leads us to him.
Grace and Peace to You,
Fr. Vitalis Anyanike