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Saint Peter

 

Jesus began his ministry with a boldness that monopolized the history of the past, with a courage that challenged the present and with an audacity that defied the future. He presented his claim to a kingdom that would not be stopped by the frontier of space or be outstripped by the passing of time. His kingdom would be one of universal brotherhood of men and an eternal brotherhood of souls.

Both ideas were antagonistic to Jews and gentiles alike. Jesus proclaimed a kingdom, which everyone who hears of it must enter, a kingdom visible to all as if on a mountaintop.

His would be a kingdom whose call is scattered like seed upon barren and fruitful soil, and which shall bear both weeds and wheat until the final harvesting. His would be a kingdom as insignificant in its beginnings as a grain of mustard seed yet gigantic in its growth, sheltering all the races and peoples of the world. His would be a kingdom with a subtle but transforming influence, like the leaven that ferments the bread. His would be a kingdom that would be sought like a treasure buried in a field, a kingdom precious beyond compare, as a pearl of great price for which all else must be sold.

He Himself must not only be the Master but the motive for one’s life — all this promulgated while He, the King, foretells His own betrayal, abandonment and infamous execution. This was no ordinary man, who by His words changed the world. Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

How did Jesus set about the realization of his ideal? Here again the wonder of God’s ways is manifest. To be the rock on which the Church would stand ever unshaken by the powers of darkness; to be the holder of the keys of earth and heaven; to be the prime shepherd of his shepherd princes, the support of their strength; to be the judge whose decrees would be ratified by God; to be his witness before the world, his mouthpiece throughout the ages; to be the infallible teacher of his truth and the triumphant champion of his law; to be the living link that shall secure his kingdom’s unity in space and preserve his identity in time; to effect all this, Christ, with divine disregard for human prudence and with divine recklessness, chose a man that was ignorant, dull, poor, timid, impulsive and old, a mere commonplace fisherman who barely earned his daily bread with his boat and his net from the waters of the Galilean sea.

At the beginning of His manifestation to the world and before calling any Apostle, the Messiah, meeting the fisherman, said: “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas [which means rock]” (John 1:42). It was the divine promise of a name with a divine meaning that carried with it a divine mission.

In the second year of Christ’s ministry, this promise was fulfilled. So Saint Mark tells us: “And he went up into the hills, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons: Simon whom he surnamed Peter … ” (Mark 3:13-16)

It was at this time Christ first established the College of his Apostles and gave them authority to teach. Saint Matthew chronicled the occasion by saying: “The names of the twelve apostles are these: first Simon, who is called Peter … ” (Matt. 10:2 = Luke 5:14 = Mark 3:16-19)

Now when God gave a name, the name’s meaning was a Divine symbol and a sanction of the bearer’s office and authority. So it was with many — as it was with Abraham, Sara, Joshua and Jesus, the Word made Flesh. In the third year of Jesus’ ministry, the Son of God explained to Peter XE "Peter"  the meaning and the power of his name.

Hilary of Poitiers (310-367 A.D.) speaks of Peter as the “foundation of the Church” (In Ps. 131) as the “firm Rock on which the Church was built” (In Ps 141) as “the Prince of the Apostleship” (In Mt 7). Saint Epiphanius (350-403 A.D.) describes Peter as “the Rock on which the Church was in every way built” (Adv. Haer. Cath. 59).

The See (seat or throne) of Rome is the only Apostolic See with unbroken succession back to its founder, Peter.  He was the first of many men who wore the mantle of steward of Jesus Christ on earth. For a Roman Catholic, the papacy is the key to the entire religious question of authority. For we believe the doctrines of our faith because the visible, teaching Church — the Corpus Christi, or Body of Christ — has taught them and continues to teach them through its head on earth, the Pope, the successor of Saint Peter, the Servant of the Servants of God.

This Catholic position on the authority of the popes has been violently assailed since the Reformation. In the present day, when reunion is so much talked about, everyone who earnestly desires to see Christendom reunited must face the papal claims objectively. The protagonist is content to say the Church has allowed itself to claim for the papacy divine rights and authority for which there is no evidence. But opinionated statements hardly amount to proof. They rather beg the question.

 

© 2003 – Victor R. Claveau

 

Part or all of this article may be reproduced without obtaining permission as long as the author is cited.

 

"They have not the heritage of Peter

who have not the see of Peter,

rent by their impious division."

-Tertullian

 

 

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