Prayer to St. Peter
Thou art the Shepherd of the sheep, the Prince of the Apostles, unto thee were given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. “Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Raise us up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, by the apostolic assistance of blessed Peter, Thine Apostle; so that the weaker we are, the more mightily we may be helped by the power of his intercession; and that being perpetually defended by the same holy apostle, we may neither yield to any iniquity, nor be overcome by any adversity. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
O God, who cause the minds of the faithful
to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what you command
and to desire what you promise,
that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace:
“I will thrust you from your office
and pull you down from your station.
On that day I will summon my servant
Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe,
and gird him with your sash,
and give over to him your authority.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and to the house of Judah.
I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut
when he shuts, no one shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot,
to be a place of honor for his family.”
Just as in the days of King Hezekiah, seven hundred years before Christ came on earth, the man in charge of the appointed family (the major-domo), the chief authority (next to the king) in the household, was deposed because of his disloyalty to Yahweh and his worldly ambitions, so also when Christ came the kingdom of God passed from the Chosen People of old and was given to the Gentiles, with Peter as chief steward representing Christ and next to him in authority.
Shebna lost his position because of worldliness and infidelity to God. The Scribes and Pharisees lost their leadership and their place in the new kingdom of God, for the very same reasons. This should surely be a lesson to us. But how many Christians fail to learn this lesson? They forget the exalted position they hold in God’s plan, and through their worldliness and disloyalty to God in his earthly kingdom, they put at risk their inheritance in the eternal kingdom.
The profound saying of Christ. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his life?” is forgotten by many Christians today. They make the possessing of all this world’s goods their sole purpose in life. They therefore neglect, and eventually forget, their own best interests, their eternal interests. Could folly be greater? Our world today is full of such foolish people. More than ever before in the two thousand years of Christianity there are ex-Christians who have become atheists in practice if not in theory.
There are many causes for this state of affairs. The basic cause is the reluctance of human nature to accept the need for self-restraint and sacrifice. Man does not like obligations or duties, but he is ever ready to grasp at privilege and freedom. The false doctrine that each one is captain of his own soul, sole master of his own life, is much more attractive to human nature than the call to obedience and submission to the Creator. But the cure for this sad state of our present-day world is much more important than diagnosing its causes. We, practicing Christians, want all our fellowman to reach heaven; we want them all to recognize what they are, whence they came, and whither they are going. We want them in other words to have their own eternal interests at heart.
Apart from fervent prayer for all our neighbors, whatever their color, creed or non-creed, the next best remedy we can apply to the infidel world, is to give to all men the example of a truly Christian life. Good, practicing Christian parents must hand down to their children untarnished the Christian faith they themselves received from their own parents. They do this especially by good example. Outside of the home, every good Christian must strive to let his non-practicing neighbor see that he lives according to Christ’s gospel, and that he appreciates and esteems it.
If each loyal Christian won back three lapsed Christians each year, in thirty years time most of the western countries would be Christian once again! We have heard too many lamentations and condemnations of the paganism which has gripped our present-day society. It is time we were up and doing our part to bring our neighbors back to God and Christ. Sitting and lamenting has not helped; action will.
Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8
Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple.
Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
I will give thanks to your name, because of your kindness and your truth: When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me.
Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees, and the proud he knows from afar. Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands.
Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that he may be repaid? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
What strange creatures we are! We admire and exalt great scientists, men who have discovered more of the laws of nature than any others who went before them. Yet, we do not stop to admire and praise the One who made all the laws, discovered by science, and millions more as yet undiscovered! We praise and extol great painters who can reproduce in color faces of men and women and beautiful landscapes, but we forget or ignore the maker of these landscapes and the creator of these faces!
Yes, we praise and admire our fellow-creatures who have greater gifts than ordinary men, but we forget the good God from whom these gifts came, and who possessed them to an infinite degree. We fail to praise and admire him. How illogical!
In a very real sense it may be said that no true scientist and no true student of nature has ever been an atheist. Because of the perfection of the natural laws and the proofs of supreme intelligence evident in creation the inference is almost inevitable that some supremely intelligent Being (in other words, God) was the originator and inventor of all this created perfection. It is the pseudo-scientists and the self-styled intelligentsia who fail to see God in his marvelous creation. As some writer put it: “The pseudo-scientist says: ‘Look what I found in the atom,’ while the scientist says: ‘Look what God put into the atom’.”
Without being scientists or highly versed in the intricate nature of created things, we have a knowledge of God sufficient for our purpose in life, because God in his love and mercy revealed himself to us. He has told us he is our Creator, our Sustainer, our Savior, and our Last End, our Goal in life. While with St. Paul we must marvel at, and admire, the infinite wisdom and knowledge of God, we must marvel still more at the infinite love which moved him to reveal himself and his purpose to us.
However, because of that same infinite love of God, we are no longer unworthy creatures: we are finite and limited, but we are still important in God’s eyes, because through the Incarnation he has made us his adopted children in order to give us a share in his eternal life. It is because of this relationship that we can approach the infinite God as a loving father, as one who, though infinitely above and beyond us, has a father’s interest in our eternal and temporal welfare. We need not fear his infinite power and majesty, for in the Incarnation he has proved to us how he can descend to our level in order to give us a place and make us feel at home in his eternal kingdom.
Today, with St. Paul, let us say from the depths of our hearts: “To the infinitely wise and merciful God may all honor and glory be forever offered by all his adopted children.” And may we never fail to thank him for this almost incredible privilege. May we ever show in our daily lives that we appreciate and treasure all he has done and is continuing to do for our temporal and eternal welfare.
MT 16: 13-20
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and 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.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 153 When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood”, but from “my Father who is in heaven”.1 Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.’”2
CCC 424 Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’3 On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church.4
CCC 440 Jesus accepted Peter’s profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man.5 He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man “who came down from heaven”, and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”6 Hence the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the cross.7 Only after his Resurrection will Peter be able to proclaim Jesus’ messianic kingship to the People of God: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”8
CCC 442 Such is not the case for Simon Peter when he confesses Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, for Jesus responds solemnly: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”9 Similarly Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, “When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles. ..”10 “And in the synagogues immediately [Paul] proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’”11 From the beginning this acknowledgment of Christ’s divine sonship will be the center of the apostolic faith, first professed by Peter as the Church’s foundation.12
CCC 552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve;13 Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”14 Christ, the “living Stone”,15 thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.16
CCC 553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”17 The “power of the keys” designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: “Feed my sheep.”18 The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles19 and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.
CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.20 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men.21 Therefore his being put to bodily death22 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”23
CCC 849 The missionary mandate. “Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men”:24 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age.”25
CCC 881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock.26 “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.”27 This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.
CCC 1444 In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ’s solemn words to Simon Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”28 “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head.”29
1 Mt 16:17; cf. Gal 1:15; Mt 11:25.
2 DV 5; cf. DS 377; 3010.
3 Mt 16:16.
4 Cf. Mt 16:18; St. Leo the Great, Sermo 4 3: PL 54,150 – 152; 51,1: PL 54, 309B; 62, 2: PL 54, 350-351; 83, 3: PL 54, 431-432.
5 Cf. Mt 16:16-23.
6 Jn 3:13; Mt 20:28; cf. Jn 6:62; Dan 7:13; Is 53:10-12.
7 Cf. Jn 19:19-22; Lk 23:39-43.
8 Acts 2:36.
9 Mt 16:16-17.
10 Gal 1:15-16.
11 Acts 9:20.
12 Cf. I Th 1:10; Jn 20:31; Mt 16:18.
13 Cf Mk 3:16; 9:2; Lk 24:34; I Cor 15:5.
14 Mt 16:18.
15 I Pt 2:4.
16 Cf. Lk 22:32.
17 Mt 16:19.
18 Jn 21:15-17; Cf. 10:11.
19 Cf. Mt 18:18.
20 Cf. Mt 8:4; 16:18; 17:24-27; Lk 17:14; Jn 4:22; 18:20.
21 Cf. Jn 2:21; Mt 12:6.
22 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.
23 Jn 4:21; cf. 4:23-24; Mt 27:5; Heb 9:11; Rev 21:22.
24 AG 1; cf. Mt 16:15.
25 Mt 28:19-20.
26 Cf. Mt 16:18-19; Jn 21:15-17.
27 LG 22 # 2.
28 Mt 16:19; cf. Mt 18:18; 28:16-20.
29 LG 22 # 2.
Jesus, the true Son of God, became man in order to make all men his brothers and co-heirs with him, to the divine, eternal kingdom. To carry on his divine mission on earth (after he had ascended into heaven), he founded the Church on the twelve Apostles. This Church was to be God’s new Chosen People (hence perhaps the twelve Apostles take the place of the heads of the twelve tribes of the Chosen People of old). It was to be made up of all races from all parts of the world. As its mission was to bring the message of salvation to all men, it was to go on until the end of time.
For this Church, this divinely instituted society of human beings, to carry out its mission of helping all men to reach their eternal kingdom, it was necessary to be sure of the road and the aids offered to its members. In other words, the Church should be certain that what it told men to believe and to practice was what God wanted them to believe and to practice. Today’s reading from St. Matthew tells us how Christ provided for this necessity. In making Peter the head of the Apostolic College, the foundation stone of his Church, the guarantor of its stability in the symbol of the keys and the promise that all his decisions would be ratified in heaven, Christ gave him the power of freedom from error when officially teaching the universal Church.
In other words, Peter received the primacy in the Church and the gift of infallibility in his official teaching on matters of faith and morals. As the Church was to continue long after Peter had died, it was rightly understood from the beginning that the privileges given to him and which were necessary for the successful mission of the Church, were given to his lawful successors–the Popes.
This has been the constant belief in the Church from its very beginning. The first Vatican Council solemnly defined this dogma and it was reconfirmed recently in the second Vatican Council. In giving these powers to Peter and to his lawful successors Christ was planning for our needs. In order to preserve and safeguard the right conduct of all its members he provided a central seat of authoritative power in his Church. Through the gift of infallibility he assured us that whatever we were commanded to believe (faith) or to do (morals) would always be what he and his heavenly Father wanted us to believe and to do.
How can we ever thank Christ for these marvelous gifts to his Church, that is, to us? Let us say a fervent: “thank you, Lord; you have foreseen all our needs and provided for them, grant us the grace to do the little part you ask of us in order to continue our progress on the one direct road to heaven.”
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
Peter the Rock
But how are we to understand the new first name Peter? It certainly does not portray the character of this man whom Favius Josephus’ description of the Galilean national temperament so recognizably fits: “brave, kind-hearted, trusting, but also easily influenced and eager for change.” The designation “rock” yields no pedagogical or psychological meaning; it can be understood only in terms of mystery, that is to say, christologically and ecclesiologically: Simon Peter will be by Jesus commission precisely what he is not by “flesh and blood”… A rabbinical text may shed some light on what is meant here: “Yahweh spoke: ‘How can I create the world, when these godless men will arise to vex me?’ But when God looked upon Abraham, who was also to be born, he spoke: “Behold, I have found a rock upon which I can build and found the world.’ He therefore called Abraham a rock: ‘Look upon the rock from which you have been hewn’” (Is 51: 12). Abraham, the father of faith, is by his faith the rock that holds back chaos, the onrushing primordial flood of destruction, and this sustains creation. Simon, the first to confess Jesus as the Christ and the first witness of the Resurrection, now becomes by virtue of his Abrahamic faith, which is renewed in Christ, the rock that stands against the impure tide of unbelief and its destruction of man.
His Holiness Benedict XVI Pope Emeritus
Prayer to Saint Peter
O Holy Apostle, because you are the Rock upon which Almighty God has built His Church, obtain for me I pray you: lively faith, firm hope, and burning love, complete detachment from myself, contempt of the world, patience in adversity, humility in prosperity, recollection in prayer, purity of heart, a right intention in all my works, diligence in fulfilling the duties of my state of life, constancy in my resolutions, resignation to the will of God and perseverance in the grace of God even unto death; that so, by means of your intercession and your glorious merits, I may be made worthy to appear before the Chief and Eternal Shepherd of Souls, Jesus Christ, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns forever. Amen.