MATTHEW 16:19 (Today’s Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:13-23)

Jakarta, 4 August 2022

A Christian Pilgrim


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MATTHEW 16:18-19 (Today’s Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:13-23)

Jakarta, 5 August 2021

A Christian Pilgrim


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MATTHEW 16:19 (Today’s Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:13-19)

Jakarta, 22 February2021

A Christian Pilgrim


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(A biblical reflection on the 21st ORDINARY SUNDAY (Year A), 23 August 2020)

Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:13-20 

First Reading: Isaiah 22:19-23; Psalms: Psalm 138:1-3,6,8; Second Reading: Romans 11:33-36 

The Scripture Text

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then He strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20 RSV)

In today’s Gospel reading we have Saint Peter’s profession of faith in the messiahship of Jesus, and the conferring on Saint Peter of the gift of infallibility and primacy in the Church which Jesus is establishing.

Caesarea Philippi was a city twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee, built by the Tetrarch Philip about the year 1 A.D. Jesus asked His disciples what the people were saying about Him. He had already worked many miracles and had proved He was more than a prophet. He called Himself the “Son of Man”, which in Aramaic usage could mean just “a man”, but Jesus’ use of it so often there was more than a veiled hint at His messiahship.

The disciples told Jesus what they had heard the people say, and the general impression was that He was one of the prophets or John the Baptist sent back from the dead to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Evidently the people had not yet recognized Him as the Messiah. That He was Elijah the great prophet of the northern kingdom (870-850 B.C.) returned to life, would be based on the words of the prophet Malachi (4:5-6). That He was Jeremiah (646-580 B.C.) back from the dead could have come from the vision described in 2 Maccabees 15:11-16).  And that John the Baptist, who had openly proclaimed himself to be Precursor of the Messiah, could or should have returned from the underworld to complete his mission, is understandable.

When Jesus asked the opinion of His disciples – who had a much closer acquaintance with Him than any of the people – Peter answered for all the disciples, declaring without any hesitation: “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus told Peter that it was not from human reasoning he had come to acknowledge His messiahship but through divine revelation, from His heavenly Father.

Jesus addressed the leader of the disciples, first by the name he was known by up to this, “Simon, Son of Jonah”; but Jesus is naming him Cepha, a rock, which is  translated by Petros in the Greek. The rock will be the solid foundation of the Church, the community of the new Chosen People which Jesus is about to set up on earth to carry on His work for people. This special privilege is a reward for Simon’s confession.

Jesus, the true Son of God, became man in order to make all human beings His sisters and brothers as well as co-heirs with Him, to the divine, eternal Kingdom. To carry on His divine mission on earth (after He had ascended into heaven)., he founded the Church on the twelve Apostles. This Church was to be God’s new Chosen People (hence perhaps the twelve Apostles take the place of the heads of the twelve tribes of the Chosen People of old). It was to be made up of all races from all parts of the world. As its mission was to bring the message of salvation to all people, it was to go on until the end of time.

For this Church, this divinely instituted society of human beings, to carry out its mission of helping all women and men to reach their eternal Kingdom, it was necessary to be sure of the road and the aids offered to its members. In other words, the Church should be certain that what it told people to believe and to practice was what God wanted them to believe and to practice. Today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew tells us how Christ provided for this necessity. In making Peter the head of the Apostolic College, the foundation-stone of His Church, the guarantor of its stability in the symbol of the keys and the promise that all his decisions would be ratified in heaven, Christ gave him the power of freedom from error when officially teaching the universal Church.

In other words, Peter received the primacy in the Church and the gifts of infallibility in his official teaching on matters of faith and morals. As the Church was to continue long after Peter had died, it was rightly understood from the beginning that the privileges given to him and which were necessary for the successful mission of the Church, were given to his lawful successors – the Popes.

This has been the constant belief in the Church from its very beginning. The first Vatican Council solemnity defined this dogma and it was reconfirmed recently in the second Vatican Council. In giving these powers to Peter and to his lawful successors Christ was planning for our needs. In order to preserve and safeguard the right conduct of all its members He provided a central seat of authoritative power in His Church. Through the gifts of infallibility He assured us that whatever we were commanded would always be what He and His heavenly Father wanted us to believe and to do.

Short Prayer: Thank You Lord Jesus Christ, You have foreseen all our needs and provided for them. Grant us the grace to do the little part You ask of us in order to continue our progress on the one direct road to heaven. Amen. 

Jakarta, 22 August 2020 

A Christian Pilgrim


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