St. Peter statue outside St. Peter’s Basilica | Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
First reading Isaiah 22:19-23
I place the key of the House of David on my servant’s shoulder
Thus says the Lord of Hosts to Shebna, the master of the palace:
I dismiss you from your office,
I remove you from your post,
and the same day I call on my servant
Eliakim son of Hilkiah.
I invest him with your robe,
gird him with your sash,
entrust him with your authority;
and he shall be a father
to the inhabitants of Jerusalem
and to the House of Judah.
I place the key of the House of David
on his shoulder;
should he open, no one shall close,
should he close, no one shall open.
I drive him like a peg
into a firm place;
he will become a throne of glory
for his father’s house.
Responsorial Psalm 137(138):1-3,6,8
Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.
I thank you, Lord, with all my heart:
you have heard the words of my mouth.
In the presence of the angels I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple.
I thank you for your faithfulness and love,
which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
you increased the strength of my soul.
The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly
and the haughty he knows from afar.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
discard not the work of your hands.
Second reading Romans 11:33-36
All that exists comes from him; all is by him and from him.
How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything? All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.
Gospel Matthew 16:13-20
You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
As you know, the name Peter comes from the Greek word, Petra, meaning rock. Jesus named Simon, “Peter”, the rock upon which the Church would be built.
The Lord could have found many different ways of establishing His church. He could have entrusted it to the angels. He could have worked out a Church of some sort of direct inspiration where every move on earth was exactly dictated from heaven. Instead, the Lord put the Church in the hands of people of faith. Good people, like Peter, but still people with all the limitations of being human.
Peter tried to keep Christ from going to Jerusalem and was called “Satan” for he was doing the work of the devil. After boasting that he would never deny the Lord, he did in fact deny him three times. Peter was a good man, a man of faith, but sometimes his vision became clouded.
He often started out well, but then let his humanity effect his actions. For example, after Pentecost when the Church was in its first days, Peter realized that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians were equal. Yet, at Antioch, he ignored the Gentiles in favor of the Jews, for which he was berated by Paul. Peter was a holy man, but still, a man, and as a man he made human mistakes.
On the positive side, Peter was a man who grew in his faith. He was a determined fisher of men. He accepted the obligations and responsibilities of leadership over the other apostles, many of whom were far better educated than he was.
Peter may have denied Jesus before Pentecost, but after Pentecost, he embraced suffering if that was what the Gospel entails. Peter, this man who fled the crucifixion of Jesus, accepted his own crucifixion asking to be crucified head down because he didn’t deserve to die as the Lord died.
When we consider the human failings of all the Popes who followed Peter, including those who would be canonized saints, we have to recognize the hand of the Holy Spirit in the very life of the Church. The Church is far more than individuals. It is the Body of Christ guided by the Holy Spirit.
We, the confirmed, are entrusted with the responsibility of leading others to the Lord. We recognize that we do not do this alone. We realize that we must allow the hand of the Lord to work his wonders through us.
Today’s gospel reading, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church” leads us to make an act of faith in the Lord who uses human beings, you and me, to proclaim his wonders.