The readings emphasize Simon Peter’s role in the Church as established by Jesus in the gospel reading. Simon responded to the Lord’s query, “Who do you say that I am?” His answer was the strong affirmation that “you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” The words usually used for ‘the Messiah’ is ‘the Christ’ but both mean the same: the anointed one in Hebrew is ‘the Messiah’ and in Greek is ‘the Christ’.
The Messiah is the anointed king, like King David, who will save the Jews from their oppressors. Before the resurrection this meant for the ordinary Jew that the Messiah would be a king who would drive the Romans out of their land given to them by Yahweh.
The Jewish people had lived 1,000 years since King David and prayed and waited for a savior. When Jesus came he was not recognized as their Messiah, their warrior king, but instead most Jews were still waiting for their savior, for the Messiah. The gospels speak of the longing that the Jews had for the warrior king who would free their hold and its people from the foreign occupier.
When Simon recognized Jesus as this special prophet sent by God, he proclaimed that he was the Messiah. And Jesus then changed his name from Simon to Peter which in Greek meant “solid rock.” Jesus promised to establish his Church on this ‘rock’ (on Peter) and gave him the powers to do this; “I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.”
In our readings today we notice that both Peter and Paul have suffered much to witness to the Lord. We reflect on our own lives and see that we also have difficult times and circumstances with which we must deal. To celebrate this solemnity of the church’s greatest Apostles, we need also to trust in the Lord’s presence and his saving action.
A special note is important that we recognize our popes as the successors to St. Peter who was commissioned by Jesus to lead the Church. “Simon, son of Jonah” was blessed by Jesus because his insight about who Jesus really was came from his heavenly Father. May we also be open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that we live a faithful life in union with the whole Church and our Pope.
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