Print Version    Email to Friend
Discovery that changes your name and life

One day, near the city of Philippi, Jesus addresses two questions to the apostles. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” and “Who do you say I am?”
The admiration of men for Jesus as one of the greatest teachers of all times cannot be denied. But a true disciple is one who has understood that he is unique. It is at this point that Peter speaks in the name of all and shows he has understood everything. He says to him, “You are the Christ” (you are Messiah).
Peter gave a correct answer only in form, actually he has in mind a completely distorted idea. He is convinced that Jesus is about to begin the kingdom of God on earth and thinks that he will implement this through a show of force, wonders and signs.
But Jesus’ response comes in a complex form, challenging him to reconsider. “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church...”
The name given to Simon—Cephas-Peter—in Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus) in all probability does not mean the rock, but just a building stone.
The stone of which Jesus speaks is the faith professed by Peter. This faith constitutes the foundation of the Church, which keeps it united with the Christ-rock, makes it indestructible and allows it to never be overwhelmed by the forces of evil.
All those who, like Peter and with Peter profess this faith, are inserted as living stones in the spiritual building designed by God.
Peter also receives the keys and the power of binding and loosing. The rabbis were seen as possessing the keys of the Torah, because they knew the scriptures.
Jesus takes up this image in his harsh indictment of the scribes, “A curse is on you, teachers of the Law, for you have taken the key of knowledge” (Luke 11:52).
Instead of opening the door of salvation, they barred them, not revealing to the people the true face of God and his will.
Jesus has taken away from them the key which they abusively appropriated. By handing over the keys to Peter, Jesus charges him to “become an example to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3).
He entrusted him to open wide the entrance to the knowledge of Christ and his gospel. Whoever passes through the door opened by Peter with his profession of faith (the holy door) has access to salvation, those who refuse remain excluded.
From today’s gospel, we recognise that Peter is entrusted with a particular task in the Church. He is called to feed the lambs and the sheep and must sustain his brothers in the faith.
As the pope himself has expressly recognised, it is necessary to understand the pope’s ministry to be, as Irenaeus of Lyons (second century), puts it, “The presider over charity.”
• Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications