Thursday, June 28, 2007

On this rock I will build my church

In preparation for mass tomorrow (SS Peter and Paul), I'm musing on the Gospel which has been the source of much arguing over the years:

"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

I suppose it might be just a wee bit presumptuous of me to say that I have finally figured this out definitively after all this time. For centuries the Pope says Peter is the rock, and the Protestants say Peter's confession is the rock, blah blah blah. Wearying is the word. And now at long last I have figured it out. Sure.

Well, I did come up with something, actually, which happens to be in sync with the Lutheran Confessions, which somewhere declare that it means "upon this ministry . . ."

The fact is that both sides are right, in a way; and each is wrong about the other. Peter's confession does have to come into play here, since he just got through saying it, and Christ made quite a big deal of it: "Flesh and blood have not revealed this unto thee, etc." And then, immediately after, he gives him the name Peter, which, of course, means "rock," and then says, "Upon this rock . . ." So the man Peter also comes into play, quite evidently. Jesus here gives the keys to him alone, which is especially clear to those of us who happen to be accustomed to the KJV (pay attention, Petersen). He says, "unto thee" not "unto you" which would be plural. Nobody but Peter got the keys on this day. Not the church, not even the other disciples. Only Peter. And he got them because of his confession.

Then again, it's also true that all the apostles got the same authority after the resurrection, when Jesus breathed on them all. So it is right to see Peter as primus inter pares--first among equals--meaning that Rome is right in seeing him as first, and Rome is wrong in seeing the others as less than equals.

Anyhow, here's what hit me: when Peter confessed, Jesus announced the building of His church (notice, He did not say to Peter, "you will build my church," but I, "I will build my church"). And He made it clear that the building of the church would be by the ministry, i.e., the keys, that He gave to Peter.

And incidentally, the Office of the Keys and the Office of the Ministry are the same thing.

Hence, where Jesus builds His church, He does so by sending ministers: bishops, preachers, priests, pastors (whatever you want to call them) who will know, confess, and preach first of all that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.


Pr. H. R. said...

One more thing, Dear Grammarian: Jesus does not give the keys to Peter in Matthew 16: dabo tibi (I SHALL give thee the keys)

This refers forward: Peter doesn't get the keys apart from the other disciples. Rather, he simply gets the promise that the Lord will give it to him in the future, namely, when the whole body of the Apostles. This is another big chink in the Roman armor.


Father Eckardt said...

Right, I thought of that too, but chose to ignore it for now. I suppose I should have said this: "Nobody but Peter was promised the keys on this day. Not the church, not even the other disciples. Only Peter. And this because of his confession." Excellent observation. Go to the head of the class.

Lawrence said...


Pastor Beisel said...

Great post Fr. Eckardt. I also appreciated your comments on my post on Confession. You da man!