Upon this rock I will build my Church

first_imgFaithLifestyleLocalNews Upon this rock I will build my Church by: – August 20, 2011 Sharing is caring! Share Share Sharecenter_img 45 Views   no discussions Tweet Photo credit: Myspace.comThere are two interpretations of this famous text. We are more familiar with one rather than the other, though the second is the more theologically accurate of the two.Both interpretations are St. Augustine’s, and what he underlines in the first is the ironic word play Jesus uses to describe Peter. This comes across best in Latin, I’m afraid. The Latin for Peter is Petrus, and for rock it’s petra. Jesus is saying in effect: ‘Petrus, you are petra, and on you I will build my church.’ Jesus says this ironically, Augustine observes, because rock is not the metaphor you think of primarily when you think of Peter.  Peter had a big heart; he meant well; but he was weaker than he thought, and he couldn’t help putting his foot in his mouth.  He would go on to betray Jesus, after saying he loved him greatly, “whatever about these others.” We will see irony again after the resurrection, when Jesus says to him: Simon Peter, do you love me “more than these others do?” The irony is gentle. Jesus doesn’t rub Peter’s nose in it.So Jesus chose an unrock-like person to do important things with. St. Paul would himself say later on, looking at the hodge-podge that comprised the first communities, that God chose the weak things of the world to be instruments of his message. This is always true, of course. There’s further irony in Jesus’ choice. The soon-to-be head of the Church was the first apostate, Augustine noted — an observation one hardly sees anywhere, though it shows the mind of Jesus as much any of his more famously quoted positions.Augustine’s second interpretation focuses on the fact that the rock is Peter’s faith in Yahweh, not Peter himself. It is Yahweh who reveals Jesus’ identity to Peter; and the foundation of the Church will be Peter’s faith in that source.In the traditional interpretation of the passage we looked entirely to the future, forgetting the past. We forgot that the only Bible the early Church had was the Old Testament, what we call today the Hebrew Scriptures. Peter did not hear in the words of Jesus what we have traditionally heard, namely, support for papal primacy. That doctrine was more than nineteen hundred years away. What he heard were all the traditional associations of Yahweh as the rock of his peopleOn the lips of Jesus, ‘upon this rock’ therefore means ‘upon the rock you have faith in’ – that will be the foundation of my Church. The rock was the great Old Testament symbol of Yahweh’s durability and strength. It is from the rock that living water flowed in the wilderness, and rock-likeness is what came to symbolize Yahweh’s very nature.  He was, as the famous song put it, the rock of ages.  Those are the association in the mind of Jesus regarding the foundation of the Church.Faithfulness is still a prized quality in our morally uncertain times. It is also a quality we think reserved for marriage. But whether married or not, we all have to be faithful – to our promises, commitments, loved ones, and to God.The word itself derives its meaning from faith.  To be faithful is to keep faith with someone.  At a basic level that means keeping faith over something.  People, for instance, borrow books or money from you, and promise faithfully to return what they borrowed, and very often that’s the last time you see them.  Even at that ordinary level, though it’s not so ordinary sometimes, you can see that unfaithfulness does not in the first place mean sleeping around.  It means not being true to one’s word.One can also speak of being faithful in terms of a way of life.  It was said of Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, that he was so faithful to his constitutional at four in the afternoon, that people set their watches and clocks by him. A basic meaning of faithfulness is thus dependability.  But the idea contains much more than this.  You can take a walk every day at four in the afternoon because the doctor says to you, if you don’t, you won’t live for more than five years. We find you dependable, but you’re really not being faithful to a way of life. You’re just being prudential; you want to live longer.By comparison we can say of someone like Mandela, and I think of the time especially before he became famous – we can say that he was faithful; and you’re in another realm altogether.  Or of Mother Teresa that she was faithful to her vision regarding the poor, and the same thing applies.Faithfulness here means being true to a vision, not to something given to you with lightning and trumpets, but to some deep call in the recesses of your being.  Faithfulness means that you hand yourself over to that.  Faithfulness essentially means self-surrender.  That’s why in persons who are faithful, what resonates from them is not so much their particular individuality, but the vision they have surrendered or given themselves to.Jesus himself was faithful – to a way of obedience, which is what all faithfulness is ultimately about, and he let his faithfulness take him where it wherever it would.In our text then, Jesus guarantees that the Church will stand, not because of Peter the individual but because of Peter’s faith in the faithfulness of Yahweh, the rock. It is for that reason that nothing untoward can ultimately prevail against the Church.  The key to understanding what Jesus declares is his trust in Yahweh’s faithfulness – the model for our very fallible efforts at being the same.By: Father Henry Charles, Ph. dlast_img