I hope everyone has had a good first few days back at school! This is Joe Bowser writing this post…my wife Kendra and I helped out with youth group last year, and we brought our baby Benjamin a few times. We are looking forward to having a great year of youth group and getting to see you all again and meet those of you who are freshmen! I am going to be helping Stacy with an occasional post on the blog this year. As you continue preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation, I wanted to write this first post of mine about a very important topic, church authority, as it relates to this past weekend’s reading at mass.
As a refresher, the Gospel for August 27th was from Matthew 16:13-20:
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.
This Gospel reading is very important to us as Catholics because Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock that His church will be built on. He gives Peter the keys to His kingdom and gives him the power to “bind and loose” which gave him the authority to make decisions binding on the people of God (the Church). In other words, Jesus said Peter will be the first pope!
Jesus also gave the promise that the gates of the netherworld (hell) will not prevail against his church. What a great promise! We can have ultimate faith that the Catholic Church in union with the successors of Peter (the pope) will be victorious over the powers of hell. We also know from this passage that in her official teaching on faith and morals, the church will never make an error. If the Church were to teach an error regarding the faith, it would mean that hell had prevailed. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t Catholic people, priests, or even popes who say untrue things or behave badly. What it means is that in the Church’s official teaching on faith and morals, the Holy Spirit will protect her from making an error. You can trust that when the Church declares something to be true, that it is true!
If you look at the 1st reading in Isaiah from Sunday we see that Eliakim was given the key to the house of David much as Peter was given the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Isaiah 22:22 says:
I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim's shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut
when he shuts, no one shall open.
The Church is very smart when choosing the readings that go together each Sunday as this is one example of how the New Testament Church fulfills the Old Testament Kingdom of David. When Eliakim was given the key to the house of David, he was made the prime minister of the Kingdom which meant he was in charge of everything in the Kingdom while the king was away. The key of the house of David was passed on to the successors of Eliakim. The language in Isaiah and Matthew is very similar, and shows how Peter fulfills this role of prime minister much as Jesus fulfills the role of the King. Peter has the power, given to him by Jesus, to make decisions binding on the Church while Jesus is away after His ascension to heaven. As the keys of the Kingdom of David were passed on through generations after Eliakim, the keys of the kingdom of heaven have been passed on through the generations and Pope Francis currently holds the keys!
Peter was given this power when he believed and proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. He accepted Jesus’ calling for his life to be the rock on which Jesus’ Catholic Church was built. We are all called to make the same profession of faith that Peter did and to accept Jesus’ calling in our lives. One of the things you do when you are confirmed is make a profession of faith. You do this by saying the Nicene Creed like we do in mass every Sunday. What you essentially are saying when you recite the Creed is that you believe everything that the Church teaches. This may sound scary, but it really is liberating. You don’t need to wonder if the Church is right in its official teachings. You don’t need to figure everything out on your own because you can trust that when the Church declares something to be true, it is true! Jesus promised us that. What a blessing it is to be a part of His Church!
Please feel free to comment or contact me with any questions or comments as I would be happy to discuss further.
Word up. I am Stacy, the youth minister of this amazing group of teens. I have 4 kids of my own, 2 heaven babies and like 60 teens I consider very large children of my own.