Peter, the solid rock

Peter, the solid rock

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (Matthew 16:13-20)
August 27, 2017

By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB

SIMON did nothing special to attract Jesus’ attention and deserve a “preferential treatment.” He only put his fishing boat at the disposal of the Master, and accepted to carry out Jesus’ questionable instruction to cast the nets again when the sun was already high on the horizon – a most unlikely hour for a good catch. (See Lk 5:4f.) Yet Jesus loved him with special love. There were reasons for that . . . .

Simon was a simple, unschooled fisherman. He was well aware of all his limitations and moral failures. (See Lk 5:8.) But when the crucial moment came to express his opinion on Jesus, he showed a unique perceptiveness which outshone all others. He had no doubt: Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).

The learned and the clever had formed their opinion about the Christ from what they had studied or heard. Their answers could only be conjectural and inadequate. But Simon’s deep conviction – his faith – was rooted in another kind of knowledge: divine revelation. It was God Himself who had implanted that certitude in him. Hence, Jesus’ reaction: “Blest are you, Simon! . . . No mere man has revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father” (Mt 16:17).

This fisherman from Bethsaida was the object of the Father’s special love. God knew him through and through: his weakness as well as his generosity and sincerity. God had plans for him. He who put the right answer on his lips, would still enlighten him and his successors, time and time again, whenever needed for the good of His Church.

Peter would outlive his Master only by about thirty years, but the mission of being “rock” and steersman of the Church would outlive the fisherman from Galilee till the end of time. It would live on in his successors, Pope after Pope, century after century. Peter’s role would be fulfilled by others, called by different given names, but always bearing the same root name of “Peter/Rock.” On each of them, as on the fisherman from Bethsaida, Jesus has been conferring his authority to bind and loose, and the strength and wisdom needed to steer the fragile but unsinkable boat of the Church. Ever assailed by hell’s fury, this Church is ever victorious over reefs and storms, as it is steered by the God-steadied hand of Peter’s successors.