Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul

A simple fisherman from Bethsaida proclaims that the son of a carpenter is truly the Son of God, by nature. There was planted the mustard seed, from which would be born the churches, the ceremonies, the universities, the martyrs, doctors and saints, in short, the Holy Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church.

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When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi* he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist,* others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood* has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,* and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16, 13-19)

I- First Considerations

It is hard to find someone who has not checked the consonance of sounds in harmonic crystals. A simple tap on one of them is enough to make the others vibrate in affinity; it even serves as proof to establish the authenticity of some glasses against others.

The same happens in the field of souls. Those who are deeply Catholic are easily distinguished from those who are lukewarm, atheistic or heretical, when we “sound” a simple note: love for the Papacy, whoever the Pope may be. Fervent souls become inflamed, lukewarm ones remain indifferent, others become uncomfortable, and so on.

Well, this is the subject of today’s Gospel. In order to prepare ourselves to contemplate the panoramas it offers us, we thought of reproducing the following considerations. In this way we can get an idea of the quality of the “crystal” of our soul:

“All that there is in the Church of holiness, of authority, of supernatural virtue, all, absolutely all this without exception, condition or restriction, is subordinated, conditioned, dependent on the union to the Chair of St. Peter. The most sacred institutions, the most venerable works, the holiest traditions, the most distinguished persons, in short, everything that can most genuinely and sovereignly express Catholicism and adorn the Church of God, all this becomes null, accursed, sterile, worthy of eternal fire and the wrath of God, if it departs from the Roman Pontiff. We know the parable of the vine and the branches. In that parable, the vine is Our Lord and the branches are the faithful.

But since Our Lord was indissolubly united to the Roman Chair, it can be said with complete certainty that the parable would be true if the vine is understood as the Holy See and the branches as the various dioceses, parishes, religious orders, particular institutions, families, peoples and persons that constitute the Church and Christianity. I All this will only be truly fruitful to the extent that it has an intimate, warm, unconditional union to the Chair of St. Peter.”

“‘Unconditional,’ we say, and rightly so. In morals, there are no legitimate conditionalisms. Everything is subordinated to the great and essential condition of serving God. But since the Holy Father is infallible, union with his infallible magisterium [alone] can be unconditional.

“For this reason, an extreme susceptibility, a vibrant and lively delicacy with everything that concerns the security, glory and tranquility of the Roman Pontiff is a sign of the spiritual vigor of the faithful. After the love of God, this is the highest of the loves that Religion teaches us. One love and the other are even confused. When St. Joan of Arc was interrogated by her persecutors, who wanted to kill her, and for this purpose sought to make her fall into some theological error by means of trick questions, she answered: ‘As for Christ and the Church, for me they are one and the same thing’.

And we could say: ‘For us, between the Pope and Jesus Christ there is no difference’. Everything that is related to the Pope is related to Jesus Christ.

II- The Gospel, “Tu es Petrus”

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi* he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

The city in which today’s Gospel takes place had been built by the tetrarch Philip, who, in order to attract the sympathy of the emperor Caesar Augustus, gave it the name of Caesarea. History does not know the exact route that the Lord and the apostles undertook at that point of the events; the most probable conjecture is that they followed the road from Damascus to Jerusalem, near the bridge of the Daughters of Jacob. The territory where the Jordan River rises, between Julias and Caesarea, is rocky, solitary and rugged. There, in that mountainous and stony locality, Herod the Great erected a showy white marble temple in homage to the emperor Caesar Augustus. Walking on the stones of the region, and perhaps with that temple within sight, the dialogue took place during which the divine nature of Jesus and the edification of the Holy Church were made explicit for the apostles.

It is worth remembering that the divine pedagogy of Jesus chose the accidents of sensible nature for didactic purposes, thus making his listeners better understand the invisible realities of the universe of faith. We could cite countless cases in this regard, but suffice it to recall the way in which Christ summoned the two fishermen brothers, Peter and Andrew: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19).

Therefore, we do not rely on merely poetic reasons to suppose that the development of this conversation took place on the stones; as a background there is a high symbolic tenor. There were rocks there that were to be perpetuated, and the contemplation of these mineral creatures, fruit of his omnipotence, made the prophecy of the edification of his indestructible Church more beautiful and solemn.

Some authors emphasize another important aspect: the fact that Jesus chose a region belonging to the gentiles to manifest himself as the Son of God and to found the primacy of his Church. They interpret it as a foreshadowing of the rejection of the messianic kingdom by the Jews, and its definitive transfer to the Gentiles.

“One day when he was alone in prayer…” (Lk 9:18). As St. Luke tells us, the whole conversation narrated in today’s Gospel took place after Jesus had recollected himself and “lost himself” with his human faculties in the infinitudes of his eternal Father. He used that infallible means of action – prayer – to give immortal roots and sap to the work he would plant.

According to the Gloss, “the Lord, wishing to affirm his disciples in the faith, begins by removing from their minds the opinions and errors of others”2; that is to say, he strengthened their convictions, inviting them to become clearly aware of the misunderstandings of public opinion about the identity of Christ. St. John Chrysostom’s commentary on the “extremely malicious” character of the judgment issued by the scribes and Pharisees about the Divine Master is curious, very different from the one held by public opinion, which, although erroneous, was not motivated by any malice.

Jesus does not ask what the others think about Him, but about the Son of Man, “in order to explore the faith of the apostles and to give them the opportunity to say freely what they felt, even if it did not exceed the limits of what holy Humanity could suggest to them” 4. Jesus, thanks to the knowledge that was proper to Him, from the divine to the experimental, already knew what were the opinions that circulated regarding His figure, and therefore did not need to inform Himself; He wished, however, to lead them to proclaim the truth in response to the errors of public opinion.

The people did not consider Our Lord as the Messiah

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist,* others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

The apostles had an exact notion of the judgment that the “men” of that time had of the Divine Master. In spite of all the evidences, the miracles, the new doctrine endowed with power, etc., the people did not consider him as the Messiah so expected. In the eyes of all, Jesus appeared as the resurrection or reappearance of previous prophets. They did not find in him the effective magnificence of the political power, so essential for the realization of the fabulous messianic dream that intoxicated them. Therefore, they imagined him as the resurrected Baptist, or Elijah, a more specific precursor, or even Jeremiah, the exalted defender of the theocratic nation (cf. 2 Maccabees 2:1-12). In this verse it is clear how the human spirit is inclined to error and is easily distanced from the true prisms of salvation. But at least those contemporaries of Jesus still discerned something great in Him; it would be interesting to ask ourselves how the globalized, scientistic and relativistic humanity of our days sees it.

Peter recognizes Him as the Son of God

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

St. John Chrysostom underlines the essence of this second question 5. Without refuting the errors of appreciation of others, Jesus wants to hear from the lips of those closest to him the judgment they have of him. To make it easier for them to proclaim his divinity, he does not use here the humble title of Son of Man.

Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Peter spoke as the interpreter of the opinion of all, because he was the most fervent and the principal one, although it was not the first time that Jesus was recognized as the Son of God. Nathanael (cf. Jn 1:49), the apostles after the storm at the Sea of Tiberias (cf. Mt 14:33) and Peter himself (cf. Jn 6:69) had already expressed this conviction.

Sola fides! Here there is no emotional or sensitive element, as in previous circumstances. In the midst of the cold rocks of an ecological environment, far away from the rapturous events and the agitation of the mobs or the waves, only the voice of faith can be heard.

“It is a very true argument that Peter called Christ the son of God by nature, when he contrasts him with John, Elijah, Jeremiah and the prophets, who were, of course, sons of God by adoption. “7 Moreover, as Maldonado himself comments, Peter gives God the title “living” to distinguish him from the pagan gods, who are dead substances. And finally, the article – as it usually happens in Greek – preceding the noun “son”, designates “only son” according to the Greek. designates “only son” according to nature, and not one among several.

Human intelligence is not capable of reaching the Hypostatic Union

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood* has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.

In congratulating his apostle, Jesus endorses Peter’s affirmation of his sonship and, therefore, of his divine nature and consubstantial with the Father. On this point, the commentators are unanimous. It was a Jewish custom to indicate the person’s filiation in order to emphasize its importance; in this particular case the intention was to manifest that “Christ is as naturally the Son of God as Peter is of [his father] John, that is, that he is of the same substance as the one who begot him” 8.

Peter’s words are not the fruit of reasoning based on simple experimental knowledge. After not a few healings, the beneficiaries had conferred with exclamations on the Savior the title of “Son of David” (cf. Mt 15:22; Mk 10:47, etc.), known as one of the indications of Messiah. The demons themselves, on meeting him, proclaimed him “the Holy One of God” (Lk 4:34), “the Son of God” (Lk 4:41), “Son of the Most High” (Lk 8:28; Mk 5:7). He himself declares himself to be “master of the Sabbath” (Mt 12:8), and after the multiplication of the loaves the crowd wanted to acclaim him “King” (Jn 6:15). Many other passages like these could easily indicate to us the deep impressions made by Jesus on his disciples.9 However, never before has Peter received such praise from the Savior’s lips.

In this passage he is declared blessed, “because he merited the praise of having looked and seen beyond what is human, not beholding that which is of flesh and blood, but understanding by revelation of the heavenly Father the Son of God, and was judged worthy to know him first, the Divinity of Christ” 10.

Therefore, Peter’s affirmation started from a penetrating, lucid and comprehensive discernment of the divine nature of the Son of God. Science, genius, or any other human gift is not strong enough to reach the wasteland of the hypostatic union realized in the Incarnate Word. It is indispensable that it be revealed by God himself and accepted by man. But man without faith clings to his own ideas, traditions and studies, sometimes rejecting the most evident proofs, such as miracles. For someone like this, Jesus is no more than a sage or a prophet. There will also be those who will see him only as “the carpenter’s son” (Mt 13:55).

This is our faith taught by the Church, revealed by God himself, announced by the Son, the one sent by the Father, and confirmed by the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father and by the Son. The truths of the faith are not the fruit of philosophical systems, nor of the elaboration of great scholars.

Jesus builds His Church upon Peter

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,* and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

It was indispensable and excellent for Origen to affirm inspiredly: “But the Lord does not say whether the stone on which the Church is built will prevail, or whether the Church will be built on the stone; nevertheless, it is certain that neither against the stone nor against the Church will the gates of hell prevail. Yes, because many efforts and diligences of a considerable number of heretics have been employed to destroy that stone, that is, the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, in the attempt to pull down the sacred edifice of the Church from its foundation, which is the joy, consolation and triumph of true Catholics. In this “I will build” is found the real announcement of the Kingdom of Jesus. The great and divine design begins to be defined in that name, never used until then: “my Church”.

The plan of Jesus is proclaimed on the rocks of Caesarea, by the Son of God Himself, who presents Himself as a divine architect to erect that indestructible, grandiose and most holy edifice, the spiritual society, made up of men: militant on Earth, suffering in Purgatory, triumphant in Heaven. The group of all those who unite under the same faith on this earth is called the Church. Of this, the foundation is Peter and all his successors, the Roman Pontiffs, otherwise the existence of the building would not last. It is a vital point of our faith: “the fact that the Church is built on Peter himself”, something that, moreover, “is admitted by all ancient authors, with the exception of heretics” 12.

One Body and One Spirit with the Successor of Peter

“There are many persons constituted in authority within the Church, to whom we are to be united by obedience. However, all this variety must be reduced to a first and supreme prelate, in whom principally the universal principality over all is concentrated. It must be reduced, I say, not only to God and Christ, mediator between God and men, but also to his Vicar; and this not by human statute, but by divine statute, by which Christ constituted St. Peter prince of the apostles, established in their turn as princes on earth. And this Christ did most conveniently, because the order of universal justice, the unity of the Church and the stability both of this order and of this unity demanded it.

The “Tu es Petrus…” will apply to all those elected in conclave to sit in the Chair of Infallibility. Thus, Peter died but not the Pope; and it is around him that the Church maintains its unity.

“Easy is the proof that confirms faith and summarizes the truth. The Lord spoke to St. Peter (Mt 16:18) and said to him: ‘I say to you that you are Peter…’ And elsewhere (Jn 21:17), after his resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep’. On him alone he builds his Church, and commissions him to feed his flock. And although he confers on all the apostles equal power (Jn 20:21) and says to them: ‘As my Father has sent me, so I send you…’, nevertheless, in order to manifest unity, he established a chair, and with his authority he arranged that the origin of this unity should be based on one. True, all the apostles were the same as Peter, adorned with the same share of honor and power; but the principle flows from unity, and Peter was given the primacy to show that one is the Church of Christ and one the chair. All are shepherds, but there is one flock, shepherded by all the apostles with one accord […].

“He who does not believe in this unity of the Church, can he have faith? He who opposes and resists the Church, who abandons the chair of Peter, on which the Church is founded, can he think that he is in the Church? Blessed Paul also teaches the same thing and reveals the mystery of unity when he says (Eph 4:4-6): ‘There is but one body and one spirit, and one hope of your calling. There is but one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God'” 14.

Full, supreme and universal jurisdiction.

If we read the Acts of the Apostles, we will find Peter exercising this supreme power, speaking in the first place in the meetings of the apostles, proposing what should be done, inaugurating the apostolic mission, ending discussions with his word, and so on. And so the jurisdiction and magisterium of the Popes has been perpetuated for two millennia.

Every successor of Peter possesses true jurisdiction, since he has the power to promulgate laws, judge and impose penalties, directly, in spiritual matters, and indirectly, in the temporal field, as long as they are presented as necessary to obtain spiritual goods. This jurisdiction is full: there is no power in the Church that does not reside in the Pope. It is universal, that is, all the members of the Church (faithful, priests and bishops) are subject to him. It is also supreme: the Pope is above all, and no one above him. The Ecumenical Councils themselves cannot be held if he does not convoke and preside over them.

The conciliar statutes themselves do not bind him, and he has the power to change or repeal them.

Infallible Magisterium

The same can be said of a great and analogous function of Peter and his successors: the supreme Magisterium, which cannot err, as the pillar that supports the Church. The Pope is infallible in speaking ex cathedra, that is, as the teacher (doctor) of all Christians, in defining, with apostolic authority, doctrines on faith and morals, which must be accepted by the whole universal Church.

This is the reason why “the gates of hell” cannot prevail against an edifice built on the rock that is Peter.

“Sweet Christ” on Earth

I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.* Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Christ would return to the Father, leaving in the hands of Peter the keys of His Church. “He who has the legitimate and exclusive use of the keys of a house or city is the supreme steward or intendant who has received the powers of the Lord. The Church is the kingdom of heaven in this world: the Church triumphant will be the definitive and eternal kingdom of heaven, an extension of this same Church on earth, already purified of all impurity. Peter will have the power to open and close the entrance to this temporal Church and, as a consequence, to the eternal one” 15.

The head of this mystical body will always be Christ Jesus. During the History of humanity, He will be the invisible head, but He leaves among us an accessible Peter, the “sweet Christ on earth” (expression used by St. Catherine of Siena) whom we must all love as a good father, obey even in his slightest suggestions and advice, honor as a supreme monarch, king of kings.

III – An indestructible work is born

The development of this historical event that took place in the “region of Caesarea Philippi” is astonishing. A simple fisherman from Bethsaida proclaims that the son of a carpenter is really the Son of God by nature. This one, immediately, announces that he will build an indestructible work and will leave in the hands of his administrator, with full powers of jurisdiction and magisterium, “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”. The environment that surrounds them is poor, arid but with a certain grandeur. There is planted “the mustard seed”, from which would be born the churches, cathedrals, ceremonies, stained glass windows, universities, hospitals, martyrs, confessors, virgins, doctors, saints, in short, the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church.

At the end of two millennia, after many catastrophic storms, the “ship of Peter” remains intact, keeping Christ, with absolute power, at its center. There is no other institution that has resisted the corruption produced by moral deviations or by the perversion of reason and human selfishness. Only the Church knew how to confront chaotic theories, opposing them with eternal truth; to cool selfishness, violence and voluptuousness, using the weapons of charity, justice and holiness; to persuade and reform the despotic and materialistic powers of this world, with the solemn and unarmed influence of a wise, serene and maternal authority. Mere human hands could not erect so portentous a work; only the very virtue of God Himself would be capable of conferring holiness and elevating to eternal glory men conceived in sin.

Extracted form the Spanish Heralds of the Gospel magazine, #59. Translated without the Author’s revision.


1 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. A Guerra e o Corpo Místico, em “O Legionário”, de 16/4/1944.
2 AQUINO, São Tomás de. Catena Aurea.
3 CRISÓSTOMO, San Juan. Homilía 54 sobre el Evangelio de San Mateo , § 1.
4 MALDONADO, SJ, P. Juan de. Comentario a los cuatro Evangelios. Madrid: BAC, 1950, v. I, p. 579.
5 Cf. CRISÓSTOMO. Op. cit. § 1.
6 Cf. CRISÓSTOMO. Idem ibidem.
7 MALDONADO, Op. cit. p. 580.
8 CRISÓSTOMO. Op. Cit. § 3.
9 Ver su poder de perdonar los pecados, en Mt 9, 6; su superioridad sobre el Templo, en Mt 12, 6; la sospecha sobre su mesianismo en Mt 12, 23; etc.
10 HILARIO DE POITIERS, San, In Evangelium Matthaei Commentarius , c. XVI.
11 Apud AQUINO. Catena Aurea.
12 MALDONADO. Op. cit. p. 584.
13 BUENAVENTURA, San. La perfección evangélica, c. 4 a. 3 concl. In Obras de San Buenaventura. Madrid: BAC, 1949, t. 6, p. 309.
14 CIPRIANO, San. De unitate ecclessia, § 4.
15 GOMÁ Y TOMÁS, Dr. D. Isidro. El Evangelio Explicado . Barcelona: Ediciones Acervo, 1967, v. II, p. 38.

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