Message: Did Jesus found the Church? Today we wee some evidence.
This year, brothers and sisters, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul falls on Sunday. The occurrence gives the opportunity to address a big question. It is the third of three huge questions. The questions are:
For this Sunday I am going to assume that you believe God exists and that Jesus is God. I know that some may not - or may have doubts - but I will assume that most of you are here because at some level you have experienced God and that Jesus has touched your life.
But what about the Church? That may be more difficult because God and Jesus can be kept at at distance, but the Church is right here. And it consists of human beings - weak, sinful human beings.
The question is not whether the Church seems attractive - sometimes she is beautiful and glorious, but other times disappointing. That's not the question. The real question is: Did Jesus found the Church? Let me give you some of the evidence. In a short homily I can't give all the evidence, but at least a taste from this weekend's six Bible readings: three at the Vigil Mass and three on Sunday morning.
What stands out most vividly is Jesus giving him the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. You see that very often in art. A person can identify Peter because he holds in his hands a set of two keys.
Jesus makes clear that he gives Peter the keys for a purpose: to care for the flock. "Do you love, Peter?" Jesus asks. Then care for my sheep. That care involves protecting the flock from false teaching.
Peter not only received authority from Jesus. He used it to teach and to heal. We see Peter employing that authority in our readings from the Acts of the Apostles.
St. Paul also has authority because Jesus appeared directly to him. Paul jealously guards his authority, but at the same time he accepts Peter's primacy. In fact, after his amazing encounter with Jesus, he meets with Peter to make sure he has the correct teaching. We see that in the reading from Galatians. And remarkably in that letter, Paul refers to Peter as "Cephas" - the Aramaic word for "rock."
Cephas does not mean small pebble. It means rock, not because Peter himself is so strong but because he has the authority of Jesus - the great Rock.
So we come back to our question: Did Jesus found the Church? Today we see this evidence - that Jesus gave Peter the keys and new name. Paul witnesses to that new name, "Cephas," the rock on which Jesus builds his Church. Amen.
From Archives (Homilies for Peter & Paul):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies
Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru