B221: Why did Jesus ask his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16:13-19) Why didn’t he just tell them himself?
That is the whole point of the story – the divine revelation of the identity of Jesus. Notice that Jesus did not say “Hey, look at me; I’m the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!” Instead he waited to see if God the Father had revealed this fact to any of the disciples. And it was Peter who showed that he had been favored with a divine revelation, one that he did not really understand even as he professed this truth.
That revelation to Peter was the signal to Jesus that this man, Peter, had been chosen by the Father as the one who would take the lead in carrying on the mission of Jesus, with his delegated authority. Jesus confirms this to Peter in the presence of all the other disciples.
The “keys” symbolize the full authority of the one in power. It always meant that in Old Testament times; it was a clear symbol of jurisdiction and command. One can enter the door only through the mediation of the one who holds the “keys” to the door. For this reason, we listen carefully and follow completely the teachings of our bishops and popes.
Both Peter and Paul ended up sacrificing their lives in Rome, for giving their witness to the Good News. But they both preserved the “deposit of faith.” Faith comes from hearing, and this deposit of faith has been faithfully preserved and passed on for 2,000 years by the bishops, the valid successors to the Apostles.
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Jesus himself recognizes that Peter’s confession of faith comes by divine revelation from the Father in heaven (CCC #442). Paul was also given a divine revelation so that he could become the missionary to the Gentiles (CCC #442 also). Now it is your turn. Who do you say that Jesus is? Do you believe that Jesus is really and truly present in the Eucharist, not just a symbolic presence? This is a revealed truth that is the very core of our Catholic faith (CCC #1324-27), a truth passed on from Peter and Paul to us through the bishops of the Catholic Church.
Q482: I don’t expect to be in chains nor in prison. So how can I “internalize” the First Reading today about Peter in chains?
I suspect that most people focus only on the part of the story where Peter is in chains, in prison, under very heavy guard. Those are vivid scenes that our imagination can instantly grasp and process. Therefore, those folks just might overlook a Very important part of today’s First Reading (Acts 12:1-11). That line is as follows: “prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God on his behalf.” Do you see what can happen when the entire Church prays with a single intention, all with great trust and fervor?
There are many in prison today from our own families. However, the prison I am talking about is the toxic prison of sin. It takes many forms: alcoholism, drugs, lust, a thirst for power, pursuit of wealth, and that deadliest of all sins, pride. Pride is the most dangerous because it is full of narcissistic selfishness. It encourages a person to disregard the needs of others, to disregard objective truth, and to disregard the wisdom of the Church Fathers who have preserved and passed on that same truth for centuries. Pride is most dangerous at the political level, because it leads to unjust systems that nurture sin – systems like courts that approve unlimited abortions, sodomy, and the destruction of domestic families.
But we don’t have to give up and sit around and wring our hands in frustration or despair. We are all called to Holiness, and we are called to be a people of prayer. If some members of our family are not responding to the universal call to Holiness, then we must pray for them. They are lost sheep, so to speak, and a prayer for their welfare and spiritual awakening is a prayer that will indeed be heard by the Good Shepherd. The timing and the results are not up to us; only our persistent, committed prayer is necessary. Peter wasn’t freed until the very night before the trial which was surely planned to end in his death. But the fervent and continued prayers of the community were heard by the Lord.
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries, even for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel message (CCC #2636). Never doubt how much the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels (CCC #334).