“Peter You Are Rock, And Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church!”
From: Father John Corapi
Reflecting the thought of the church through the ages, the Catechism (#760) reminds us that Christians of the first centuries said, “The world was created for the sake of the Church.” God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the “convocation” of men in Christ, and this “convocation” is the Church. Many people have problems with the Church quite simply because they do not understand its origins, its mission, or its end. The Catholic Church is not a mere human invention, like a political or social entity. The Church is of divine institution; Jesus Christ himself instituted the Church, not mere men after his Ascension (#763-766)
We recall a striking scene from the Gospel of Matthew: Jesus and his disciples are passing through the region of Caesarea Philippi – a region known for its pagan religions. The Mater asks his disciples who they say that the Son of Man is. It was perhaps one of the first public opinion polls regarding Christianity. The results of such polls of mere personal opinions, then as now, are less than satisfying: “Some say John the Baptizer, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” These were conflicting and contradictory guesses and opinions that have none of the ring of authority and authenticity the human spirit needs in order to walk confidently in the dark night of faith. Then, one voice rang out, the voice of Simon: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” The response of the Lord is the definitive answer when it comes to answering the question, “Who founded the Church?”: “Blest are you, Simon son of John! No mere man has revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. I for my part declare to you, you are ‘Rock,’ and on this rock I will build my church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it.” Note who the “I” is: the “I” is a divine person, the subject of action is divine; God himself institutes the Church. The Church is not a mere human institution. Christ, the eternal Word, the Father’s Son, institutes and builds his Church on the “Rock.”
All through the Old Testament, “Rock” with an uppercase”R” refers to God himself. Then in the Gospel of Matthew referred to above, we see Jesus, the “Rock,” because he is a divine subject of action, renaming Simon “Rock.” Jesus, the real “Rock,” is also referred to as the “bridegroom” or “groom” as well in Scripture. The Church is his “bride” (#796). We know, also from the Word, that in marriage, whether natural or supernatural, the “two become one flesh.” Jesus and his church are one; bridegroom and bride are one. Hence, Christ is naming Peter “Rock”, one with himself. There is no other “Rock” other than Christ absolutely speaking. However, the Rock, in a mystical marriage, unites his beloved bride, the Church, to himself. Simon is named “Rock”, and whoever hears the Rock Peter is hearing the Rock who is Christ; whoever rejects the Rock who is Peter, rejects the Rock Christ and the One who sent him, the Father.
You cannot separate the Lord Jesus from his beloved body and bride, the Church. To reject the teaching of Peter and his successors the Roman pontiffs, together with the bishops who are united with the Holy Father in teaching the one faith which has been handed down faithfully from the apostles, is to reject the teaching of Jesus Christ, and the One who sent him, the Father (cf. Luke 10:16).
The Catholic Church can never fail ultimately, although her members can and do. The Church is far more than the sum of her human members, for if that were the case the Church would surely have fallen long ago. The most important member of the Church is her head, Christ the Lord (#792-795). The soul of the Church, the life-giving power, the animator and sanctifier of the Church, is the Holy Spirit. The head and soul of the Church is God; the Church will never fail. The storms of time and the tempests stirred up by earthly kings and rulers come and go; their crowns rise and fall, and roll in the dust but the Church goes on. Mere personal opinions come and go. Some say this, some say that, but mere personal opinion cannot move the Rock.
Head and body are one; bridegroom and bride are one. Those who attack the Church attack Christ. When Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the newborn church on his way to Damascus, he was knocked off his horse by the light who is Christ. “He fell to the ground and at the same time heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, sir?’ he asked. The voice answered, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.’” Saul was “breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” against the Church. Christ told him clearly that he was persecuting him, Jesus, the Lord. Christ and his church are one. To love Jesus truly, we must love his church.
In an age of violence and violent change, it is comforting to know that we are so intimately one with Christ, residing in his body and his bride, the Church. Transcending time and space, the Church is relevant to all people at all times and in all places. Indeed, to be rooted in the Rock, to be one with the Rock, keeps us from being swept away by the strife and storms of any time and any place.
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