1 Peter 5: 1 – 4
Matthew 16: 13 – 19
Mark places this incident at Caesarea Philippi. Luke, because of the importance he wishes to give to prayer in his Gospel, places it in the context of Jesus praying. But Matthew keeps it at Caesarea Philippi. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks the disciples for a “field report” by asking what people are saying about him. He refers to himself as the Son of Man, a term derived from the Jewish Scriptures, found in the book of Daniel and in other apocryphal writings. Many scholars suggest that “Son of Man” is best understood to mean “human being.”
As Jesus turns the question directly to the disciples and asks what they believe, Peter speaks for all of them when he announces that they believe Jesus to be the Christ. “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for “messiah,” which means “the anointed one.” At the time of Jesus, the image of the “messiah” was laden with popular expectations, most of which looked for a political leader who would free the Jewish people from Roman occupation.
Because Jesus has referred to himself a number of times in Matthew by Christological titles this moment is not the revelation of who Jesus is as in Mark. Instead it marks an important moment in the development of the Church. Jesus uses this occasion to bless Peter, who represents all the disciples but also has a unique role to play in the founding of the new community. Peter is blessed not because of a personal insight but because God revealed to him who Jesus is. Peter is the rock on which Jesus will build the Church.
There are several foundational truths taught to us by this passage above. One of those truths is that “the gates of the netherworld” shall never prevail against the Church. There is much to rejoice over by that fact.
Think of the many human institutions that have existed throughout the centuries. The most powerful governments have come and gone. Various movements have come and gone. Countless organizations have come and gone. But the Catholic Church still remains and will remain until the end of time. That is one of the promises of our Lord that we celebrate today.
The Church itself, this shining Bride of Christ, this infallible institution still remains and will continue to remain because Jesus guaranteed it.
With today’s modern media by which every sin of every member of the Church is able to be instantly and universally broadcast to the world, there can be a temptation to look down on the Church. Scandal, division, controversy and the like can shake us to the core, at times, and cause some to question their ongoing participation in the Roman Catholic Church. But the truth is that every weakness within Her members should actually be cause for us to renew and deepen our faith in the Church itself. Jesus did not promise that every Church leader would be a saint, but He did promise that “the gates of the netherworld” would not prevail against Her.
Then turn your eyes to our Lord and to His holy and divine promise. The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against the Church. That is a fact promised by our Lord Himself. Believe it and rejoice in that glorious truth.
God Bless. Have a blessed day