One source of the river Jordan was Mount Hermon
in the north. There had been an ancient shrine
there to the pagan god Pan. Roman emperor Caesar
Augustus gave the site to Herod the Great. Herod’s
son Philip re-built the city and named it after
himself and the emperor, Caesarea Philippi. Herod
Antipas, who had executed the Baptist, believed
that Jesus worked miracles because he was John
risen from the dead [Matt 14:1]. Matthew names
Jeremiah three times and makes several references
to his writings. Elijah had been taken up to heaven
and was expected to return. Peter is the first
disciple to refer to Jesus as the Messiah/ the
Only Matthew gives the response
of Jesus to Peter’s confession. In Matthew’s gospel
Peter is often first to become involved. Peter
was dead over twenty years when St Matthew wrote
the gospel, so he remained an important figure.
Son of man first occurs in the
book of the prophet Daniel, not as an individual
but as a people. Jesus claims to be one who takes
his place as leader of the people. ‘Flesh and
blood’ means the whole human person in his weakness,
in contrast with the Father in heaven. [James
Joyce said the Catholic Church is founded on a
pun]. In Greek it is Petros and petra (a rock);
in Aramaic, the language they spoke, both are
kephā. The gates of the underworld, Sheol: death
and powers opposed to God will not defeat the
assembly of Jesus’ disciples. Keys of the kingdom
refers to Eliakim in the today’s first reading:
Peter in the assembly will be like Eliakim in
the king’s palace. Bind ... loose is to lay down
rules, make exemptions, to forgive or not forgive
The foundation on which Jesus
chooses to construct his Church is the personality
of a man whose only virtue is to have listened
to what the Father revealed to him. The only authentic
pillar of the Church is faith in Jesus Christ.
Binding and loosing do not mean that Peter and
his successors are all-powerful, but rather that
God promises to be involved with them, and that
therefore to be sure of being in communion with
God one must be in communion with his Church.
The other thing to note is that it is Jesus who
builds the Church. It is for us to listen to what
God wishes to reveal to us. We can be sure that
the powers of death will not prove victorious.
• It has been said that the pope is “the servant
of the servants of God”, and that the Church
is a triangle or cone standing on its point.
Jesus said to Peter that it was up to him to
confirm the faith of his brothers and sisters.
Along with today’s gospel, I am reminded to
think of what is the responsibility of a pope
and to pray for him.
• As Jesus applies to himself the title of
‘Son of Man’, originally that of a people, and
adds “I will build my Church”, we are invited
to think of the Church as a people and not as
an authority structure. How do I see myself
in that assembly?
• To bind and to loose have to do with sin.
The Scriptures see sin as ‘falling short’, like
an arrow that does not reach its target. Might
it help me to reflect on the ways I fall short
in my attempts to follow Christ more closely?
Might I need to think again about forgiveness,
the sacrament of confession, the need for grace?
• ‘Flesh and blood’ did not reveal to Peter
but ‘flesh and blood’ was able to receive revelation
from the Father. Isn’t it a comforting thought
that God can show himself and his plans to you
and me in spite of weakness, as long as we try
to make quiet time for him?