FEAST OF STS. PETER AND PAUL (June 29)

CHRIST- THE CHURCH- PETER


First Reading (Acts 12:1 –11): The angel rescued Peter from prison
Second Reading (2 Tim 4: 6-8): God and Paul together faced persecution
Gospel (Mt 16: 13 –19): Peter chosen as the Church's 'Rock' (Foundation)
Chinese Classics:
“An example of Confucius and Yan Hui's close relationship: 'Hui learned one thing, then would know ten more. What a sage was Hui! In poverty Hui remained joyful. The heavens took him! The heavens took him!”(1)

“And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven... whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:18-19)

One of the differences between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian churches is the primacy of the Pope. Perhaps because the two churches have different stands, their interpretations of the above Scripture passage have given rise to a strange phenomenon.

In general, other Christian churches base their interpretations on the exact words of Scripture (because they emphasize 'Scripture only') whereas the Catholic Church believes Scripture should be interpreted within the tradition of a living Church
(because the Bible came from the living church). But in regard to these verses pertaining to Peter, the two churches do exactly the opposite. The Catholic Church interprets the verses as they are written literally in the Bible, confirming Peter's primary position; other Christian churches use diverse ways to find other meanings, with the purpose of diminishing or even abolishing altogether Peter's singular position.

To discover Peter's unique position in Scripture, one need only read through all four Gospels to find a clear, direct conclusion; the example is in the use of the word 'rock'.
Our Christian friends use an interpretation based on their tradition that the 'rock' refers to Christ: only Christ is the 'Rock' of the Church.

In fact both sides can be correct, the difference being that they understand the issue from different perspectives. Of course Christ is the Rock (Foundation) of the Church, but then the passage in question must be read as 'You are Peter (Rock) and on myself I will build my church.' We hardly wish to attribute such illogical speech to Jesus! Moreover, Jesus basically had no need to change the man's original name of Simon to 'Peter' - which means 'Rock' (Jn 1:42) - and then decide he was a useless or soulless rock. Therefore Jesus' words mean exact what they say: “You are a rock and on this rock I will build my church.' Peter is truly the foundation rock (with small letter ‘r’ of course) of the Church: in these simple words Jesus was not talking of himself!

The relationship between Jesus and Peter makes me think of the one between Confucius and Yan Hui. Jesus often mentioned Peter's position, just as Confucius who liked Yan Hui very much often spoke of him. Confucius said, “I could talk with Yan Hui all day long.” (1) Yan Hui could comprehend Confucius' teaching very easily. Confucius had a high regard for Yan Hui's ability to learn. He said that “he learned one thing and would know ten more,”(1) which even Confucius himself could not do. Confucius often said that Yan Hui had great wisdom. “A sage is Yan Hui!” Even in extreme poverty Yan Hui held on to his principles and “remained joyful.” When Yan Hui died Confucius was in great grief and said repeatedly, “The heavens took him! The heavens took him!” He thought the heavens above had taken his life.

Confucius and Yan Hui had a special relationship. Those who are familiar with the Gospels cannot but notice that Peter was somewhat different from the other apostles. His relationship with Jesus was far more intimate than the relationship between Jesus and the other disciples.

In the 'Constitution on the Church,' Vatican Council II speaks of the church having a dual characteristic. Article 8 states, “the visible society and the spiritual community, the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches, are not to be thought of as two realities. On the contrary, they form one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element.” It then continues, “This is the sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Savior, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care (cf Jn 21:7).”

This dual characteristic of the Church confirms that there are two kinds of 'rock.' (foundation): the one and only foundation is Christ; the foundation on 'earth' is Peter and his successors, the Popes.

Jesus does not himself look after the church nor again directly preach or evangelize, nor clarify questions that arise. He does not himself teach catechumens nor directly resolve any of the difficulties of the world or the Church...

The Church on earth is looked after by people on earth. In the church which exists in this world, it is Peter and his successors, the Popes in consultation with the Bishops, who have the concern for the Church.

This is the 'rock' (foundation) of the Church on earth, and Christ's church gathers in community around this rock. And Peter and his successors, the Popes, are “a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion.” (Const. on the Church, Art. 18). Of course, the entire Church - in heaven and on earth - must be in communion with Christ. Whether Peter or any Pope, all are only servants of Christ.

All of us must journey towards Christ, but a special characteristic of the Roman Catholic Church is that we journey together with the Pope and Bishops, all of us are part of one mystical Body. The Pope cannot do without the Church nor can the Church do without the Pope, and none of us can do without Christ!

(1)孔子和顏回的親密關係:吾與回言終日。回聞一以知十。賢哉回也!(回在窮困中)不改其樂。天喪予!天喪予!