Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 16 is a very important one. Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They give Him varied answers. Then He asks, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus says to Peter, “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.” I want to share a couple of quick points about this.
Jesus said this at Caesarea Philippi, where there was a pagan temple carved into the side of a huge rock. With this backdrop, Jesus’ message was that the pagans built their temple on a literal rock, but Jesus’ church would be built upon the rock that is Peter. The keys to the kingdom were a reference to Isaiah 22, where the king gave the keys to the master of the palace, signifying the giving of all authority in the king’s absence. For these reasons, we refer to Peter (which means “rock”) as the first pope.
Father, may we always remain faithful to Christ’s Church, built upon the rock of Peter. Amen.
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