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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Peter and the Papacy Part 1

Whenever there is a change in the Papacy this gives us an opportunity to share our faith but we usually have to defend our faith at this time as well. The Papacy in the minds of common folk is thought of as a relic from medieval times when the Pope took over real Christianity and made it a political power. What does the Bible say?

The Bible says two things: First that Peter had a special role in the government of the Church and Second that this role would continue on through those who succeeded him.

How did Peter have a special role in the early Church?

This is something impossible to miss if you read the New Testament with this question in mind.
Peter is listed first in all of the lists of the apostles though he wasn’t the first chosen.
Peter speaks the most of all the apostles combined.
Sometimes Peter speaks for all of the apostles.
Sometimes it just says Peter and the apostles.
Jesus prays specifically for Peter alone.
IN Acts of the apostles it is clear that Peter is in charge
- He recognizes that the office of Judas needs to be filled
- He preaches the first Gospel on Pentecost
- He performs the first miracle

The most important thing that distinguishes Peter from the rest of the apostles is that Jesus gives to Peter the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.

This is the classic verse to point to show that Peter is given special authority.

Matthew 16:18 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. 19 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."

There is a lot going on here but concerning Peter and the government here is what you need to know.
1. Peter is the Rock
The name Peter is Greek and it means – rock – So Jesus was really saying – You are Rock and on this rock I will build my Church. So Peter is that rock that Jesus will build his Church on.

2. Christ is building the Church
It is Jesus who does the building. So many people today look at the Church without faith and see it as a human institution; this couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a divine institution as St. Paul says in:
1 Corinthians 3:6-9  6 I planted (the seeds of the Gospel) , Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  8 He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor.  9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

3. The Church can’t be destroyed
The Douay-Rheims Translation saysand the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Now there are many groups today that claim the original Church of Christ was destroyed and that in these modern times Christ has rebuilt his Church in them. This is not true. The Church of Christ can’t be destroyed because it is being built by God himself. Listen to St. Paul again:
Romans 8:31 If God is for us, who is against us?
He means that if God is fighting on your side – who could the contender possibly be? There is none. Now in the book of Acts we see the testimony of a Jewish man who is talking about why Christianity should not be persecuted.
Acts 5:38  if this council or this work be of men, it will come to nought; 39 But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God.
This Jewish man said that if this work – meaning the Gospel and the Church are from God, then it can’t be fought because it would ultimately be fighting God.

4. Peter alone is given the keys to the kingdom of heaven

This point is a kind of bridge that not only points out Peter’s authority but also that Peter would have successors in that same authoritative role.

Matthew 16:19 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."

These Keys are given in context of the Kingdom of Heaven, which God promised to establish in the Old Testament. The Kingdom of David prefigured this Heavenly Kingdom, which is now ruled by Christ the King

Luke 1:32 He (Jesus) shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.

Jesus now sits on the throne of David and is ruling over the Kingdom of Heaven, and like David and those kings who would come after him, Jesus has put in place ministers of his Kingdom, like any Kingdom would have. In the Kingdom of David there was an office called the Mayor of the Palace who literally had keys that could open and shut all the doors. He would be similar to the Vice President or 2nd in command. He answered to no one but the king himself and was given great honor by all.

We see in Isaiah 22:22-23

What is happening is that the mayor of the palace Shebna is being punished for his sins and is being replaced by Eliakim. It is here in Isaiah that the transfer of power is recorded:

20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 23 And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father's house.

Listen to what Jesus tells Peter and then listen again to what God tells Shebna

Matthew 16:19 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."

Isaiah 22:22 And I will place on his (Eliakim’s) shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

We see the keys and then the power of the keys to bind and loose, we also see the keys being associated with an office that when one person leaves another takes his place. This is called succession. One person leaves and another takes their place. Pope Benedict XVI is the 265th person to hold this office that was established with Peter and the promised of Jesus are just as true today and they were where 2000 years ago.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Poor in Spirit and the Apostles

In the Gospels we read about when Jesus sent out the apostles two by two. Yet when we consider this part in particular:

Gospel Mk 6:7-13
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick –no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.

Now when we read the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 10 he says to not take a staff or sandals.

Now there are those who would tell us that these two statements contradict one another. But this is not true. You know the gospels can all be read in about 4-6 hours if you read them straight through. Is this all Jesus did; 4-6 hours worth of work? Did Jesus only send his apostles out one time?

Certainly not. One time he sent them out with sandals and staff, another time he sent them out without sandals and staff. So when you should hear stories that some tell of the supposed contradictions in the gospels, believe none of it. But this isn’t what I wanted to focus on.

Why does Jesus send them out with nothing?

This was on the job training. Jesus is pushing them out into the street with training wheels and is telling them – you need to trust that you will be taken care of.

St. Bede says that preachers today should likewise trust in God, that they should take no thought for supplying their needs in the present world, and he should feel certain that these will be satisfied. These temporal things should not be a concern of his or he might start providing less of eternal things to others.

This is a great example of the beatitude – blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

There is no better way to be detached from material things than to simply give them up. We can’t take them with us when we die and they tend to tie us down to earth. So Jesus here is helping them live out that particular beatitude. Religious take a vow of poverty which accomplishes that first step toward perfection and eternal life. Jesus here is helping the apostles to live that out.

The purpose, I think, of at one time sending them with staff and shoes and another time saying – even leave the staff and shoes behind is this:

He is meeting the apostles where they are in their spiritual life but calling them continually to something deeper. God meets us where we are, but continually asks us to love Him more than we love the world.  When Jesus first meets Peter, he doesn’t tell him that he will be crucified upside down. He hints at it slowly until 40 years later, Peter is glad to do so.

We all know how important shoes are and a staff would be used for support but also for defending yourself. To give these up would be a big step to both them and us.

In a spiritual sense St. Augustine has an interesting insight into why they were told at that one time TO wear sandals. (these sandals were padded under the foot but open to the air on the top) he says this: Mark, by saying that they are to be shod with sandals or soles, warns us that this mode of protecting the feet has a mystical signification, that the foot should neither be covered above nor be naked on the ground, that is, that the Gospel should neither be hid, nor rest upon earthly comforts.

So just as with sandals on that are open so as to see their feet, yet padded so as to not touch the earth; living the gospel is the same way: Our life is Christ is something that we should never hide, and at the same time our life is one that should not be attached to this earth.  

These kinds of insights come from commentaries, especially from the ones that I have compiled that are for sale to the RIGHT. These are not my own commentaries per se, but are a compilation of 4 commentaries put together into one, beginning with the Church Fathers to present day.