We have before us in the Gospel today bold and famous words of confession and faith from Simon bar-Jonah, renamed PETER; and amazing words from Jesus that bestow position and authority—the giving to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Well, there you have it! There is hardly anything in all of scripture that screams ROMAN CATHOLIC more loudly than these words. Faith and assent to Peter’s keys along with the Church’s power “to bind and loose” continues both to be our remaining major specific difference from other Christian denominations and, what is more, a persistent stumbling block to the ecumenical process.
Where are you these days “faith-wise” with assenting to articles of faith, morals, and revelation as taught by your Church with its power to bind and loose? What and how much do you share of your beliefs with your own children? It is not something to be taken lightly, you know.
Our Church declares that the successor to St. Peter, our Pope, is declared “infallible in matters of faith and morals.” Myself, I never really had much of a problem with infallibility. To be infallible, one must always be in possession of the truth. Jesus, who handed over the keys, is THE truth, by his own declaration. What good would our Church be, or of what worth, without Jesus and his truth in it? Beyond that, the headier and more lengthy definitions of infallibility go on to declare that the pope teaches infallibly only when speaking ex cathedra and all bishops speak infallibly when issuing declarations in ecumenical council. The faithful are to believe as infallible only those teachings that are matters of faith and morals, and they are to believe such articles as part of revelation itself! By the way, ONLY GOD IS TRULY INFALLIBLE! His servants enjoy infallibility by way of gift (read, “Divine Assistance”) from God, Himself, and only in a restricted sense. This is what our Church teaches. So what’s the big deal?
Here it is good to recall Jesus’ encounter with Pontius Pilate. Remember how Pilate claimed to have the authority to put him to death? Jesus’ response to him was, “You would have no authority, unless it came to you from my heavenly Father!” To be in possession of the truth and to have any authority has to be seen as “gift.” It should also be the cause for profound humility. I say, if anyone should presume authority without evidencing his/her real humility and unworthiness—that person, by the very fact, should not to be trusted. I might also add that detecting false humility is an art and these days, almost a necessity for survival!
Anyway, for us mere mortals, it is important to note that next Sunday’s gospel passage—same chapter (16) of Matthew—follows “the giving of the keys” with one of the worst tongue lashings ever to be uttered from Jesus’ mouth, and it is aimed at “Mr. Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” himself— PETER! Jesus calls him “Satan,” for crying out loud…I guess we’re just never too old to be spanked.
Being with you (and all of the above), the Church.