The Rock

Scripture Reading

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “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.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:13-19)


Scripture Study

16:13 Caesarea Philippi: situated about twenty miles north of the Sea of Galilee in the territory ruled by Philip, a son of Herod the Great, tetrarch from 4 b.c. until his death in a.d. 34. He rebuilt the town of Paneas, naming it Caesarea in honor of the emperor, and Philippi (“of Philip”) to distinguish it from the seaport in Samaria that was also called Caesarea. Who do people say that the Son of Man is?: although the question differs from the Marcan parallel (Mk 8:27: “Who … that I am?”), the meaning is the same, for Jesus here refers to himself as the Son of Man (cf. Mt 16:15).

16:14 John the Baptist: see Mt 14:2. Elijah: cf. Mal 3:19; Sir 48:10. Jeremiah: an addition of Matthew to the Marcan source.

16:16 The Son of the living God: see Mt 2:15; 3:17. The addition of this exalted title to the Marcan confession eliminates whatever ambiguity was attached to the title Messiah.

16:17 Flesh and blood: a Semitic expression for human beings, especially in their weakness. Has not revealed this … but my heavenly Father: that Peter’s faith is spoken of as coming not through human means but through a revelation from God is similar to Paul’s description of his recognition of who Jesus was; see Gal 1:15–16, “… when he [God] … was pleased to reveal his Son to me.…”

16:18 You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: the Aramaic word kēpā’ meaning rock and transliterated into Greek as CEphas is the name by which Peter is called in the Pauline letters (1 Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:4; Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14) except in Gal 2:7–8 (“Peter”). It is translated as Petros (“Peter”) in Jn 1:42. The presumed original Aramaic of Jesus’ statement would have been, in English, “You are the Rock (kēpā’) and upon this rock (kēpā’) I will build my church.” Church: this word (Greek ekklēsia) occurs in the gospels only here and in Mt 18:17 (twice). There are several possibilities for an Aramaic original. Jesus’ church means the community that he will gather and that, like a building, will have Peter as its solid foundation. That function of Peter consists in his being witness to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it: the netherworld (Greek Hadēs, the abode of the dead) is conceived of as a walled city whose gates will not close in upon the church of Jesus, i.e., it will not be overcome by the power of death.

16:19 The keys to the kingdom of heaven: the image of the keys is probably drawn from Is 22:15–25 where Eliakim, who succeeds Shebnah as master of the palace, is given “the key of the house of David,” which he authoritatively “opens” and “shuts” (Mt 22:22). Whatever you bind … loosed in heaven: there are many instances in rabbinic literature of the binding-loosing imagery. Of the several meanings given there to the metaphor, two are of special importance here: the giving of authoritative teaching, and the lifting or imposing of the ban of excommunication. It is disputed whether the image of the keys and that of binding and loosing are different metaphors meaning the same thing. In any case, the promise of the keys is given to Peter alone.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel spells out the importance of Peter’s confession. For it is upon this inspired confession that the Church is built. Not, mind you, on popular opinion, which is shifting and indecisive, and not on personal holiness, which is all too rare. It is built upon the inspired authority of Peter—and I say, “thank God!”

We make this troubling and extraordinary claim that it is through a special charism of the Spirit that Peter and his successors govern the Church. Now I realize that I have many Protestant readers and that this text has been, between Catholics and Protestants, a stumbling block. Let me clarify what is and is not at stake here.

What is the focus of Peter’s confession? It has to do with who Jesus is. This is the rock upon which the Church is built. We don’t say for a moment that all of Peter’s practical decisions are right, that everything he says is right. But we are saying that he is right about who Jesus is: a man who is also the Son of the living God. And this is the source and ground of the whole operation.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.