“You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My Church.”
The great teacher, Socrates, is known to have persistently taught that man should know himself by critical self-examination for “an unexamined life is not worth living.” Since life is both a journey into the unknown and unexpected discoveries, coupled with the fact that the human person is a bundle of possibilities, it becomes very crucial that man should be in constant enquiry about his being and his place in the universe. In the Gospel of today, Matthew 16: 13-20, Jesus asks his apostles questions that seeks to know who others perceived Him to be; and who they thought He was. What did Jesus mean by this? Did He not know what others or His apostles thought He was? Certainly, He did. So there is something deeper than this that He wants to do. Jesus wanted to use this occasion to reveal to His apostles Who He was and His mission on earth. The apostles, like many other Jews, thought Him to be a political Messiah, who would deliver them from the political domination of the Romans. It was necessary that the apostles knew clearly who Jesus was and what He was about, even so for us today.
This makes the direct question to the apostles: “What about you? Who do you say I am?” very important for us. Who is Jesus to us today? We have Christians who have so much knowledge about Jesus, from the Bible, from history, from different studies, and even from peoples’ testimonies. But who is Jesus to me? We need to have knowledge of Jesus. Knowledge of Jesus is a personal knowledge derived from our personal encounter of Him in our prayers, private studies of the Scriptures, revelations, life experiences and all.
Peter spoke up in answer to Jesus’ question and Jesus made this overwhelming proclamation: “And so I tell you, Peter: you are rock and on this rock I will build My Church, even the gates of the underworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven; what you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This is a very loaded proclamation and may be too much for one person. But that’s the position and power Jesus gave to Peter and His Church. To call anyone rock could have been seen as the greatest compliment, especially for the Jews who saw God as their Rock. “He is the Rock; His work is perfect” (Deuteronomy 32: 4). “There is no rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2: 2). “The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer) 2 Samuel 22: 2). “Who is a rock, except our God?” (Psalm 18: 31). When we recall the life of Peter, how weak he was, how he would speak before thinking and all his weaknesses, it is queer then that Jesus would call him rock. But herein lies the lesson. Peter was rock because, among other reasons, he was aware of his weaknesses. Like St. Paul says: “I am most happy, then to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me … for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10). To be aware of our strength we must first be aware of its source – God. We can never be who we are without the love and grace of God. In our humility God makes us great and solid as a rock. Let us pray that through our efforts and prayers in union with Christ Jesus, the gates of the underworld may never prevail against Christ’s Church. `