The majestic dome of ST.Peter ‘s in Rome , has these powerful words chiseled around it, “Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram edificabo ecclesiam meam “. ‘You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church’.
These are powerful words coming from Jesus Christ , appointing Peter the head of the Church. What did Jesus see in this rugged Galilean fisherman to give him such responsibility and honor ?
We all know stories about young men and women who coasted along for a long time.Then, all of a sudden began to put their lives on the line in a way they had not done before. Class reunion can be a great surprise! The great Thomas Aquinas was nicknamed the ‘ dumb ox’ by his classmates, for he rarely spoke or asked any questions in class. Guess what ? He became the greatest Philosopher and Theologian that ever lived.
Peter was not a great intellectual. He was not always brave, and scripture says that he could not run as fast as John, who was younger. He argued with Jesus, he wont let Jesus wash his feet at the last supper. Three time he denied that he knew Jesus. He was not as powerful with the Jews as James was and not as influential as Paul.
Simon Peter most of the time coasted along. But, after the resurrection this all changed.
Peter became the Rock. Jesus gave Peter the chance to wipe out the memory of his denial by a threefold declaration of love, “Peter , do you love me ? “. Jesus, here gave him the ‘keys’ of the kingdom, and made him the leader, the head of the early Christian community, ” Feed my lambs, feed my sheep”.
Peter’s leadership and primacy is evident in the early Church. He is mentioned more often than the other disciples. He is always mentioned first and is the one who speaks for others. Peter presided over the election of Matthias and worked the first miracle and received the first Gentile convert. He confirmed the others (apostles) in the faith. (See the Acts of the apostles).
His life was not easy. To be a Christian is not a vocation to popularity. Even less so , to be a leader of the Church. But Christ promised his lifelong support..” I will be with you till the end of time”. Peter as tradition has it, led the Church in Antioch then moved to Rome and eventually died in the eternal city, Rome. Peter was the center of unity and protector of Christ’s message of salvation.
As time went on and the Church grew, the successors of Peter as bishop of Rome continued to be a sign of unity and leadership. ” The Church is a sign , a sacrament of unity. As Peter was the center of unity, so is the person of the pope.” (Vat.11)
The Church has a message to deliver. Often she seems as a sign of contradiction, but so was Christ. The pope’s message many a time is distorted by the secular media. Let us always remember that Christ and His Church are not on a popularity contest. We are to look at the Pope as a unifying principle: tending the sheep and the shepherds. This obligation and privilege has been given to Peter and his successors by Christ himself.
Prayer::All powerful Father, you have built your church on the rock of St. Peter’s confession of faith. May nothing divide or weaken our unity in faith and love. (Bk. of Christian Prayer).
God bless you and yours. Fr. David ,O.P.