“Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God. And Jesus answering said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:16-18).
Christ makes several things clear in this passage from Matthew’s gospel.
- He is, in fact, God.
- It is not the revelation of man, nor the opinions of man, that provide the foundation for the Church. It is the revelation of God, His Father.
- It was he who received the revelation of God about His Son and proclaimed it that merited the authority of the papacy
- Regardless of what happens, hell will not win out against the Church that He founded
The First Point:
Never in the history of anything has that which is of one nature begotten something of another nature. Humans do not give birth to cows, rats, dogs, cats, or any other thing besides another human being. This is equally true of the other creatures. Angels do not beget because they are non-generative. Humans and animals beget, because we are the types of creatures that produce offspring, and God begets. And, if what is begotten is of the same nature of that which begets, then Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, is of the same nature of the Living God. That is to say, Jesus Christ is the Living God, the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father. Man begets man, and God begets God, “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.” So, for Simon Peter to proclaim that Jesus Christ is, in fact, the Son of the Living God and for Christ Himself to affirm him in this proclamation, is for Christ to affirm His Divinity. He is man, but He is also God, fully and truly, two natures united perfectly in one Divine Person. He is one in nature with us, for He is like us in all things but sin; and He is from all eternity consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit, distinct only in Personage, but not substance.
The Second Point:
Christ commends Peter for what he says, but not because Peter has any special attributes or gifts. In fact, we see several instances where he is actually “dumb as a rock”. Instead, it was because God the Father willed to reveal the true nature of Christ to Peter first, and it was this which Christ commends. It is not the man who Christ commends. It was the pure, unadulterated truth of God, which was revealed to Peter and then proclaimed by him that Christ is pleased with. We know that it was not because Peter was exceptional, for just a few lines later in Matthew 16: 23, Jesus rebukes him and calls him Satan:
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the ancients and scribes and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again. And Peter, taking Him, began to rebuke Him, saying: “Lord, be it far from Thee, this shall not be unto Thee.” Jesus turning, said to Peter: “Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men” (Mt. 16:21-23).
You see? It is not what man says or thinks, but what God proclaims. The Faith has to be received from God Himself to have any veracity; for, God is Truth, and it is only what is spoken from Him that is True. After the Fall, our intellect was darkened, and our wills weakened. Our appetites became disobedient and disordered, and we no longer know nor desire what we should. So, if it were up to us, we’d all be damned; and, in fact, that’s exactly what happens, as the story of Adam and Eve illustrates. It cannot be from us that the Faith comes. Otherwise, it will inevitably fail as we so often do. Instead, for the Faith to have any stability, any longevity, any credibility, and any promise of perpetuity, it must come from Him who is unchanging, who is true, and who is eternal. The Faith and how it is practiced must come from God.
I’m not the only one who believes this. The Fathers believe this. St. Paul believes this:
“Only there are some who trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from Heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so now I say again: If anyone preach to you a gospel besides that which you have received, let him be anathema” (Gal. 17-8).
Further, just look to Moses. When God commanded that Moses lead the Israelites out into the wilderness to worship Him, Pharoah offered a couple of compromises. First, he said they could worship within the land of Egypt*, but this was not good enough. Worship had to be done according to the precepts laid out by God Himself. They had to go out of Egypt. Then, Pharao presents yet another compromise. He is willing to let Moses go out into the wilderness, BUT only the men are permitted to leave.+ And as soon as Pharao dismisses Moses and Aaron from his presence, God sends another plague. Pharao tries time and time again to compromise on the commands of God regarding right and proper worship, but it is not good enough, because we must worship as God commands. If the Church was founded by Christ, receives its life from Christ, and has Christ as Her head, then the only way the Church can exist and operate is precisely how Christ commands.
The Third Point:
“YOU ARE THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD”
As we said earlier, there was nothing particularly striking or special about Peter that made Jesus Christ look at him and say, “This man will make a great leader for my Church.” No, in fact, a lot of what we know about Peter shows that he does not have the best track record. But, that isn’t what Christ is looking at. Peter is fallen, Christ is well aware of that. It is His mission, after all, to redeem mankind. So, Christ knows that Peter is completely and utterly useless by his own merit, just like any of us. But, Christ chooses him because His Father chose him. Peter was the one who proclaimed the revealed truth, and this merited him the role as Christ’s first vicar here on earth. It could have been that the other apostles had this truth revealed to them, we don’t know, but that alone would not have been sufficient. It was his reception of revealed truth and his proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord that made him worthy of the office. Therefore, all of his successors, that is to say, all of the Popes throughout history were and are tasked with proclaiming this divinely revealed Truth, which has been handed down from Christ to the Church. Otherwise, they disgrace the office.
Of course, receiving faithfully and proclaiming the Gospel is a task that we are all given at our baptism when we are made priest, prophet, and king. It is just that the Bishops, the successors of the apostles, most especially the Pope, are specifically and specially tasked with the shepherding of souls towards eternal salvation, that is to say, towards Christ. Therefore, it is especially egregious if they stop remaining faithful towards the Church of Christ, because then it causes scandal to Christ and His Bride, and many souls are led astray and fall into hell because of this. A fact all too apparent in recent events.
The Fourth Point:
Because Christ is the eternal, omnipotent, unchanging, ever-faithful God, whatever He promises will always be true. So, when Christ promises that the gates of hell shall never prevail, we can be assured that what He says is absolutely, 100%, without a doubt true. A snowball has an infinitely better chance of staying frozen in hell than we have of being lied to by Christ. He is Truth, so whatever He says is true and eternal.
But, we look at the craziness that is going on in the Church. The sex abuse scandals (plural), idolatry in the Vatican garden (whatever you want to call it is irrelevant, a rose by any other name is just as sweet, and idol worship by any other name is just as foul and blasphemous), the elevation of the earth to a goddess-like status (the earth is not our mother! GOD IS OUR FATHER! THE CHURCH IS OUR MOTHER IN FAITH!). In the midst of all this, how can we say that the gates of hell have not prevailed? Well, it’s all very simple.
- Christ promised that they would not, so they will not.
- If we still need some convincing, we need to take into account that Christ is truly and mystically united to His Bride, the Church. If Christ would not become incarnate but through the Holy and Immaculate womb of our Lovely and Blessed Lady, who was stainless and free from any blemish of sin and corruption, then we can rest assured that Christ would not unite Himself to a Bride who also was not Immaculate and free from the stain of sin and corruption. St. Paul says this in his letter to the Ephesians: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it: That He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish” (Ep. 5:25-27). The Church is holy.
- If you’re still not convinced because the members of the Church here on earth are morally bankrupt, and there are very few of us who are not in some way, that makes sense. It is true that the members of the Church here on earth are very, very sinful. But, that does not mean the Church herself is not holy.
- Firstly, there are three “parts” of the Church: The Church triumphant, the Church militant, and the Church suffering. The Church triumphant is the Saints in heaven, the Church suffering is the holy souls in Purgatory, and the Church militant is us.
- The Church militant is called so because we are still fighting. We are the messiest part of the Church because we’re literally on a battleground, and there has never been a beautiful battleground. War is messy, and we are at war. “Put you on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For, our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against the principalities and power, against the rules of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places” (Ep. 6:11-12).
- The reason that there are so many sinful lay faithful and so many sinful and corrupt clergy is because they have stopped fighting. Literally, as long as you try to fight and desire to fight the good fight and as long as you are willing to suffer the pains of battle and as long as you remain faithful to Christ, you cannot lose. “Judge Thou, O Lord, them that wrong me: overthrow them that fight against me,” the Psalmist says, “Take hold of arms and shield, and rise up to help me. Bring out thy sword, and shut up the way against them that persecute me. Say to my soul: I am thy salvation” (Ps. 35:1-3). “If God is for us,” says St. Paul, “who can stand against us?”(Rom. 8:31) We are fighting a battle that we cannot lose unless we stop fighting. Throwing in the towel doesn’t necessarily mean becoming an atheist or a Muslim or a Buddhist, etc. It could be the case that we start putting ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings, our opinions, above Christ and what He says. In essence, we start losing the battle, we stop fighting, when we put anything at all before and above God. “Those who love me will keep my commandments,” our Blessed Lord says (Jn. 14:15). We must stay faithful to Christ. We must stay faithful to His Church.
At the end of the day, we have to persevere in prayer and all good works, for this is the life of Faith. Christ loves us and He loves His Church. He will not abandon us. His Spirit is ever with us and always working in our midst. With all our sinfulness, Christ never abandons us. He cannot. It is contrary to His nature, for He is love. The Church is as true as He is, who is Truth, and His promise to Her is as steadfast and constant as His love, which is infinite.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” says the Lord, “You believe in God, believe also in me” (Jn.14:1).
*“And Pharao called Aaron and Moses and said to them: ‘Go and sacrifice to your God in this land.’ And Moses said: ‘It cannot be so, for we shall sacrifice the abominations of the Egyptians to the Lord our God… We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and we will sacrifice to the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us” (Ex. 8:25-27)
+‘And the called back Moses and Aaron to Pharao, and he said to them: “Go, sacrifice to the Lord your God: who are they that shall go?” Moses said: “We will go with our young and old, with our sons and daughters, with our sheep and herds: for this is the solemnity of the Lord our God.” And Pharao answered… “It shall not be so: but go ye men only, and sacrifice to the Lord” for this yourselves also desired’ (Ex. 10″ 8-9,11).