DAILY CATHOLIC    FRI-SAT-SUN     May 21-23, 1999     vol. 10, no. 99


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO and SECTION THREE
          Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

          Today in honor of Pentecost, the Birthday of the Church, Pat clarifies who and what "Rock" really is. It is not Jesus but rather the one to whom Our Lord entrusted His Church - Saint Peter to whom Christ said Tu es Petrus which means "Rock" and it was upon this man, hand-chosen by the Son of God to lead His Church on earth. By way of Scriptural sources and other references, Pat proves in simple terms beyond a shadow of a doubt the authenticity of Holy Mother Church.

Founded on a rock: Tu es Petrus

          "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2: 1-4).

          And the Church was born, a gift of God surpassed only by His Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament. However, what do we, and God, mean by the Church? Is it a conglomeration of believers professing faith in God each according to their own experiences and wisdom? Changeable according to the times it finds itself?

          Though the Church was "born" on Pentecost, our Lord 'conceived' it much earlier. "And Jesus answered him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in Heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it'" (Matthew 16: 17-18).

          The previous passages hold insights many miss. When asked who the people, including His followers, said He was, the answers were "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets" (Matthew 16:14).

          So 'the people of God' couldn't agree Who He was. Interestingly, no one said except Peter said that He was the Son of God. Some feel that Jesus was saying that He is the rock, however theologians and biblical scholars who honestly read and study this, see that Jesus is saying that Peter is the rock. Christ used a number of analogies in regard to Himself. The cornerstone, the vine, and others. But never the rock.

          As Dave Armstrong, a convert to Catholicism, points in his article The Pre-Eminence of St. Peter - 50 New Testament Proofs "The rock" (Greek, "petra" referred to here is St. Peter himself, not his faith or Jesus Christ. Christ appears here not as the foundation, but as the architect who "builds." The Church is built, not on confessions, but on confessors - living men (see, for example, 1 Pt 2:5). Today, the overwhelming consensus of the great majority of all biblical scholars and commentators is in favor of the traditional Catholic understanding. Here St. Peter is spoken of as the foundation-stone of the Church, making him head and superior of the family of God - that is, the seed of the doctrine of the papacy. Moreover, "Rock" embodies a metaphor applied to him by Christ in a sense analogous to the suffering and despised Messiah (see 1Pt 2: 4-8; Mt 21:42). Without a solid foundation a house falls. St. Peter is the foundation, but not founder of the Church; administrator, but not Lord of the Church. The Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11) gives us other shepherds as well (Eph 4:11)."

          So, Peter is the 'rock' on which this Church will be built. Note, Christ said that He will 'build' His Church. It isn't built yet. But why build it in the first place? "And Jesus began to say to them, 'Take heed that no one leads you astray. Many will come in My name, saying, "I am he!" and they will lead many astray"'" (Mark 13: 5-6).

          "So Jesus again said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the Door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the Door, if anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly'" (John 10: 7-10).

          Christ knew, human nature being what it is, that many would come claiming to be His followers leading many to stray from the truth. He went on to say in John, "So there shall be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16). One flock, one Church that listens to Him, not a conglomeration of churches or followers going their own way.

          So this Church that He was building would be built on the Rock which is Peter, and keep the faithful from straying into fables, whims, and pointless speculations. It would teach the faithful and spread His word with His authority. "Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshipped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 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, to the close of the age'" (Matthew 28: 16-20).

          It should be noted that Christ was speaking to His eleven Apostles, not just His disciples. And by bestowing His authority to them and promising to be with them for all time, to listen to them would mean listening to Him. Disregarding them would mean disregarding Him. (ref. Luke 10:16).

          But this Church would also continue His work of salvation on earth. To St. Peter, Christ said, "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'" (Matthew 16:19). This was more than what He gave the other Apostles later, it denoted a higher calling and mission. Again, Dave Armstrong shows us: "Matthew 16:19: 'And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.'

          The "power" of the keys has to do with ecclesiastical discipline and administrative authority with regard to the requirements of the faith, as in Isaiah 22:22 (see Is 9:6; Jb 12:14; Rv 3:7). From this power flows the use of censures, excommunication, absolution, baptismal discipline, the imposition of penances and legislative powers. In the Old Testament a steward, or prime minister, is a man who is "over a house" (Gn 41:40; 43:19; 44:4; 1Kgs 4:6; 16-19; 18:3; 2Kgs 10:5; 15:5; 18:18; Is 22:15, 20-21) and then there is Matthew 16:19: "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven."

          "Binding" and "loosing" were technical rabbinical terms, which meant to "forbid" and "permit" with reference to the interpretation of the law and, secondarily, to "condemn," "place under the ban" or "acquit". Thus St. Peter and the popes are given the authority to determine the rules for doctrine and life by virtue of revelation and the Spirit's leading (see John 16:13), as well as to demand obedience from the Church. "Binding and loosing" represent the legislative and judicial powers of the papacy and the bishops (Mt. 18: 17-18; Jn 20:23). St. Peter, however, is the only apostle who receives these powers by name and in the singular, making him pre-eminent. (The Pre-Eminence of St. Peter - 50 New Testament Proofs).

          And to the other Apostles He also gives the authority to forgive sins, which was His mission on earth, to forgive sins and reconcile mankind with God. "Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.' And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained'" (John 20: 21-23).

          There are numerous other passages, which show Christ's intent to build a Church that would continue His teachings and mission. But we see here how the framework of the Church has been set. The hierarchy has been established. But it was yet to be born. "'You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.' And when He had said this, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into Heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into Heaven? This Jesus, Who was taken up from you into Heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into Heaven'" (Acts 1: 8-11).

          So here are the Apostles, given Christ's authority, given their mission and tasks, but not sure how to begin, what to say, or to whom. But on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon them and bestowed on them the unique gift to guide the Church. "But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, 'Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day,'" (Acts 2: 14-16).

          Peter is with the eleven teaching these people about God. Filled with the Holy Spirit and prompted by Him on what to say, as Christ promised. (ref. Jn. 14:26; 16:12-15).

          Note here that neither Mary, Christ's mother, nor any of the others present with the Apostles, are speaking to the crowd. They too have the Holy Spirit, but their gifts are of another sort. They nurture the seeds planted by the Apostles. But it's the Apostles who preach and guide the entire Church. The Roman, Cornelius, doesn't ask for any Christian, but Peter. When the question arises whether a Christian must first become a Jew and/or become circumcised, they various church's don't take a vote on it. Rather, the Church holds a Council which is hosted by James (the bishop of Jerusalem) but headed by Peter, who gives the definitive teaching on the matter.

          So much more could be written on this subject. But Vatican II sums it up: "This is the one Church of Christ, which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd (cf. Jn 21:17) and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, (cf. Mat. 28:18), which He erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth". (cf. 1 Tim 3:15). This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.

          Just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and persecution, so the Church is called to follow the same route that it might communicate the fruits of salvation to men. Christ Jesus, "though He was by nature God…emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave", (Phil 2:6) and "being rich, became poor" (2 Cor 8-9) for our sakes. Thus the Church, although it needs human resources to carry out its mission, is not set up to seek earthly glory, but to proclaim, even by its own example humility and self-sacrifice. Christ was sent by the Father "to bring good news to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart", (Lk 4:18) "to seek and to save what was lost" (Lk 19:10). Similarly, the Church encompasses with love all who are afflicted with human suffering and in the poor and afflicted sees the image of its poor and suffering Founder. It does all it can to relieve their need and in them it strives to serve Christ. While Christ, holy, innocent and undefiled (Heb 7:26) knew nothing of sin, (2 Cor 5:21) but came to expiate only the sins of the people, (Heb 2:17) the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal. The Church, "like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God" (St. Augustine), announcing the cross and death of the Lord until He comes. (1 Cor. 11:26). By the power of the risen Lord it is given strength that it might, in patience and in love, overcome its sorrows and its challenges, both within itself and from without, and that it might reveal to the world, faithfully though darkly, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it will be manifested in full light. (Lumen Gentium; Dogmatic Constitution on the Church; Chap 1 The Mystery of the Church)

      Pax Christi, Pat

May 21-23, 1999       volume 10, no. 99


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