Friday, June 27, 2014

Only Jesus builds the Church

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
June 29, 2014

Matthew 16:13-19

The episode takes place in the pagan region of Caesarea Philippi. Jesus is interested in knowing what is being said among the people about him. After hearing the various opinions that exist among the people, he addresses his disciples directly: "But who do you say that I am?".

Jesus doesn't ask them what they think about the Sermon on the Mount or about his healing activities in the villages of Galilee. To follow Jesus, what's important is commitment to him. So he wants to know what they see in him.

Simon speaks up in the name of all and answers solemnly, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus is not just another prophet. He is the last Messenger of God to His chosen people. Moreover, he is the Son of the living God. So Jesus, after congratulating him because that confession could only have come from the Father, says, "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church."

The words are very precise. The Church is not Peter's but Jesus'. The one who builds the Church isn't Peter but Jesus. Peter is simply "the rock" on which "the house" that Jesus is building sits. The image suggests that Peter's job is to give stability and consistency to the Church -- to make sure that Jesus can build it without his followers introducing deviations and reductionism.

Pope Francis knows that his task is not to "take the place of Christ," but to make sure that today's Christians meet Christ. This is his biggest concern. Since the beginning of his service as successor of Peter, he has said, "The Church must lead to Jesus. He is the center of the Church. If the Church ever didn't lead to Jesus, it would be a dead Church."

So, in making public his program for a new evangelization phase, Francis proposes two major objectives. First, meeting Jesus, since "with his newness, he is always able to renew our lives and our communities... Jesus Christ can also break through the dull categories with which we would enclose him."

Second, he thinks it's critical to "go back to the source and recover the original freshness of the Gospel" since whenever we try to do this, "new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world." It would be unfortunate if the Pope's invitation to promote the renewal of the Church were not to reach Christians in our communities.

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