Peter is one of my favourite saints and gospel figures. He is very human—impetuous, sometimes slow on the uptake, given to rash action and occasionally weak. But Jesus chooses him to be his “rock”, the one who would lead his newborn Church once Jesus was gone. Clearly Peter demonstrates to Jesus some more noble qualities that commend him for leadership.
In today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks his followers who people think he is. What follows is a lot of guesswork, but only Peter gets it right. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he says. Right away, Christ responds: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church. . .” Peter is the only one who sees keenly the truth about Jesus. And so the seeds of the papacy were planted.
Inevitably, this reading brings to mind comparisons with Pope Francis, the 265th successor of Peter. Much has been said and written about this pope; his every word broadcast around the world in multiple languages. He has delighted with his good-hearted common sense, his every day language, his humility. He revels in being a simple pastor, head of a “messy church”. He, too, is a sinner, like us in need of prayers. He shares the pain of others and reaches out personally to the sick, the poor, the oppressed.
Most importantly, however, Pope Francis points to Christ in everything he does. “The centre is Jesus, not the successor of Peter,” he is fond of saying.
He recognizes that the Church is at the service of Christ and not an end in itself. Also, that the Church is much bigger than the Vatican and the hierarchy. “We Christians may do as we want, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, we become a pitiful NGO (non-governmental organization), not the Church, not the Bride of Christ.”
So, while initiating much-needed reforms of the curia and doing the many other tasks modern popes must do, in all his actions Francis directs us to Christ, models Christ, praises and worships Christ.
Very much like Peter, in fact.
-Joseph Sinasac, Publisher
Learn more about Pope Francis’ vision for the Church! Read his recently published book, Church of Mercy available from Novalis!