On the Feast Day of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29)
“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 16:18-19).
The Gospel of Matthew is filled with verses about authority. Jesus comes to the earth overflowing with power: he is an authoritative teacher, he is a worker of miracles, he is a king of the house of David, and he is the messiah who was to come. In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, though, the biblical reader notices an astounding change. Jesus transfers some of his authority to the spokesman of the disciples–St. Peter. The Lord says that he will give Peter the keys to the kingdom. Additionally, Peter is to be the rock upon which the Church is built. How are we to interpret these shocking verses?
Matthew 16 has been a source of Protestant-Catholic controversy for centuries. Catholics claim that the verses of Matthew 16 demonstrate a compelling case for papal authority. Here Jesus gives Peter real power in the Church. He is to be the foundation of the ecclesiastical body. He is the keeper of the keys that open the gates of heaven. He earned these privileges by accepting in faith what God the Father had revealed to him–namely, that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior. Protestants, on the other hand, dismiss the Catholic argument by asserting that Jesus is the only foundation upon which the Church can be built. As for the question of the keys, Protestants often state that Peter was given the keys for his personal salvation, not the keys for the salvation of all. I’ll let the reader decide which version to accept.
Either way, it is true that Peter was an important figure in early Christianity. In conjunction with St. Paul, he led the Church during its tumultuous first years At times Peter and Paul may have butted heads, but in the end they both worked tirelessly to spread the gospel to Jews and to Gentiles. On this Feast Day of St. Peter and St. Paul, let’s work in our lives to mirror these apostles’ passion for Christ and for the Church. Peter and Paul were essential to the growth of the body of believers, and so are we!
May the Lord provide us with strength and determination that parallel the strength and determination of Peter and Paul. May Jesus unite us with them in heaven in accordance with his will.