“I won’t mind dying if I can tell Saint Peter a joke he hasn’t heard.” ~ Red Skelton
“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."
. . . . approximately 45 seconds later . . .
"Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
This episode perfectly captures the essence of Peter’s Earthly journey as told in today’s Gospel (Matthew 16:13-23). One moment he is given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, the next he is likened to the devil. Ups and downs, highs and lows, bouts of impulsiveness, cowardice, and denial, ultimately to be washed away by the scarlet ocean of a martyr’s death, brought on by the zeal of his love for his friend Jesus and his teachings.
Today we pause to recognize Saint Peter, the new Prime Minister of the Davidic Kingdom, as we look in on that very moment when Jesus hands Peter the proverbial “Keys to Heaven.” It is here too that Jesus establishes the Sacrament of Reconciliation, giving Peter and those who would follow him the authority to stand in persona Christi, ~ “In the person of Christ“ ~ declaring to him that “Whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven; and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” (Matthew 16:19). I can’t help but think of the words of Saint John Vianney, whose Memorial we will celebrate tomorrow, when he said “The Lord is more anxious to forgive our sins than a woman is to carry her baby out of a burning building.“ If only more souls, especially those in anguish over their sinfulness, came to our Lord by way of this Divine Sacrament to be waged lean under the nozzle of God’s Grace https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Washed-Clean-Under-the-Nozzle-of-Gods-Grace.
In Dante’s Divine Comedy, named as such because it does in fact have a happy ending, the sign that appears above Hell, the Inferno, reads Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate, most frequently translated as ”Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” The faithful Christian however lives a life rooted in hope. Jesus is the source of our hope; He is the “key“ to Heaven. Because of his promise to us, because he died for our sins, we know that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail.” (Matthew 16:18).
Just as Jesus bride is unconquerable, so too is His bride the Church. It will not be toppled from within despite the egregious cleric sexual abuse scandal or any other Vatican indiscretions or crimes for that matter. It will not be dismantled by outside forces who use their positions of influence and waning earthly authority to undermine Christ‘s teachings.
Eternity awaits both those who love Jesus and those who do not.
Let us offer a simple pray today for Saint Peter‘s successor Pope Francis as well as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and all the bishops, priests, deacons, sisters, PSR Instructors and RCIA Team Leaders. Let us pray that all those entrusted with teaching the truth of Christ are enflamed with the same passion and love for Jesus that Peter had. For if they are, they will be abundantly successful in their task.
In turn, let us seek the intercession of this great ”Rock” upon which our church was built so that upon meeting him after having breathed our last, he will take that key to paradise and open the door, allowing us to joyfully enter.
“O God, who hast given unto Thy blessed Apostle Peter the keys to thy kingdom of heaven, and the power to bind and loose: grant that we may be delivered, through the help of his intercession, from the slavery to all our sins: that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.” ~ Amen