Peter, Rock of the Church
Upon This Rock…
Lately, I have been doing more reading and research on the Pope, and I wanted to share this for this week’s Sunday verse:
“When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi 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 Messiah, 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.”” -Matthew 16:13-19, NAB
As someone who converted to the Catholic faith, understanding the role of the papal system in the Church was one of the most difficult aspects to understand. I never understood the Biblical basis for the papacy, until I read this verse. Before coming to the Catholic Church, I must have read this verse many times without truly understanding the depth of what it was saying. Now, with an openness to the Church, it is easy to see exactly what is meant.
In this verse, Peter is the first to step up to say that Christ is the Messiah, and for this, Christ tells us that only the Father could have revealed this to Peter. Because of faith, Simon was given a new name – Peter, which means rock. If you reread it then, the verse states, “…you are Rock, and upon this Rock I will build my church.” Clearly, Christ planned on using Peter to lead His Church, and He is giving Peter a special leadership role within the Church.
Next, by giving Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, Christ is giving Peter power and authority over the Church here on earth. As Catholics, we recognize this authority given to Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, and we also recognize it in the succession of popes including Pope Benedict XVI, the current Bishop of Rome. Together with the rest of the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, Pope Benedict XVI and his successors will continue to lead us long into the future.
While entire books have been written on the papacy, this verse is the foundation for studying it. Studying the core tenets of our faith is a better way to understand exactly what we believe, and I encourage it for everyone. Whether it be this or any other, it is vital to our faith to have a firm grip on the teachings of the Church.