Only Jesus builds the Church
The episode takes place in the pagan region of Caesarea Philippi. Jesus is interested to know what people say about his person. After knowing the diverse views there are among the people, he addresses directly his disciples, “But you who do you say that I am?”
Jesus does not ask them what they think of the Sermon on the Mount or about his healing activity in the towns in Galilee. To follow Jesus, what is decisive is adherence to his person. That is why he wants to know what is it that they see in him.
Simon takes the word in the name of everybody and solemnly answers: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus is not just another prophet among others. He is the last Sent One of God to the people. Still more, he is the Son of the living God. Then Jesus, after congratulating him, for this confession can only come from God, said to Peter: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”
The words are very precise. The Church is not Peter’s but Jesus’. The one who builds the Church is not Peter, but rather Jesus. Peter is simply “the rock” on which “the house” Jesus is building sits. The image suggests that Peter’s task is to give stability and consistency to the Church: to see to it that Jesus can build it without his followers bringing in deviations and all sorts of reductionism.
Pope Francis knows very well that his task is not “to take the place of Christ,” but rather to make sure that Christians today meet Christ. He says so already since the beginning of his service as Peter’s successor: “The Church brings Jesus: this is the center of the Church, to carry Jesus! If, as a hypothesis, the Church were not to bring Jesus, she would be a dead Church.”
Hence, on making public his program for a new phase of evangelization, Francis proposes two great objectives. In the first place, to meet Jesus, for “with this newness he is always able to renew our lives and our communities … Jesus can also break through the dull categories with which we would enclose him.”
In the second place, he considers decisive the “return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel,” since whenever we exert effort to do so, “new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world.” It would be a pity should the Pope’s invitation to give impetus to renewal not reach the Christians of our communities.
José Antonio Pagola
June 29, 2014
Saints Peter and Paul
Matthew 16, 13-19