The Foundation and Keys of the Church

Matthew 16:13-19
1 Pet 5:1-4 / Psa 23

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 16:19)

May the Lord grant us the wisdom
To ensure our soul’s salvation --
To use the keys of His kingdom
For love and reconciliation.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ (Mt.16:13-19)

Reflection

St. Peter’s declaration of the Lordship and divinity of Jesus was the defining moment of his own destiny as the first head of the Church. His statement became the “rock” of our faith, according to most Protestant denominations, as against the position of our Church that Jesus was referring to St. Peter as the “rock” upon whom Jesus built His Church. But as Jesus pointed out to all present, it was God the Father Himself Who revealed this to Peter, thus appointing him as the leader of His Church, and the defender of the faith. This divine appointment and grave responsibility of leading Christ’s Church was emphasized when Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter, in the same way that God anointed Abraham (from Abram) and Israel (from Jacob) when they were sent out in God’s mission. After assuring him that the Church would always stand firm against “the gates of Hades”, Jesus promised to give him the “keys of heaven” – the power and privilege to bind or loosen – whatever needed to be bound by God’s laws, or released from man-made ones. The first time St. Peter used these “keys” was after Pentecost, when he stood up to speak about Jesus and repentance, and about three thousand Jews were converted and baptized (Acts 2:41).

Through the centuries, the legacy of St. Peter has been handed down to successions of Bishops of Rome, and the keys of the kingdom have opened heaven’s door of salvation to countless millions all over the world. And yet they had also closed the door on those who opposed the Church of Rome on matters of doctrine. We are all bound by God’s laws to obey the teachings of our Church according to our conscience. Let us reflect on how we can participate in the Church’s mission of spreading the faith by practicing the Gospel values taught by our Lord. We can share in this divine appointment by acts of charity, especially almsgiving to those who are in dire straits; by proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel to the lukewarm of faith; by forgiving those who have done us some wrong. But above all, we must proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. As He declared to His listeners (including us), “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father” (Mt.10:32-33).

Lord Jesus, help us to be more charitable to the needy, more bold in proclaiming the values and ideals of the Gospel, and to be more patient and forgiving to those who have offended us in any way as our way of atoning for past sins. But most of all, grant us the grace to make You known to others as You have revealed Yourself to us through our personal testimony. Amen.

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