Sunday, June 29, 2008


Jesus returning the keys to St Peter, 1820 Jean Auguste Dominique

Homilies in the Papal household

P. Raniero Cantalamessa, ofmcap

You are Peter!

Today’s Gospel is the Gospel in which the keys are given to Peter. The Catholic tradition has always taken this Gospel as the basis for the Pope’s authority over the entire Church.

Someone might object that there is nothing here about the papal office. Catholic theology responds in the following way. If Peter is called the Church’s “foundation” or “rock,” then the Church can only continue to exist if its foundation continues to exist.

It is unthinkable that such solemn prerogatives -- “To you I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven” -- refer only to the first 20 or 30 years of the Church’s life, and that they would cease with the apostle’s death. Peter’s role thus continues in his successors.

Throughout the first millennium, all the Churches universally recognized this office of Peter, even if somewhat differently in East and West.

The problems and divisions crept up in the second millennium, which has just concluded.

Today we Catholics admit that these problems and divisions are not entirely the fault of the others, the so-called schismatics, first the Eastern Churches and then the Protestants.

The primacy instituted by Christ, as all things human, has sometimes been exercised well and at other times not so well. Gradually political and worldly power mixed with the spiritual power and with this came abuses.

Pope John Paul II, in his letter on ecumenism, “Ut unum sint,” suggested the possibility of reconsidering the concrete forms in which the Pope’s primacy is exercised in such a way as to make the concord of all the Churches around the Pope possible again. As Catholics, we must hope that this road of conversion to reconciliation be followed with ever greater courage and humility, especially implementing incrementally the collegiality called for by the Second Vatican Council.

What we cannot desire is that the ministry itself of Peter, as sign and source of the Church’s unity, will disappear. This would deprive us of one of the most precious gifts that Christ has given to the Church besides going against Christ’s own will.

To think that the Church only needs the Bible and the Holy Spirit to interpret it in order for the Church to live and spread the Gospel, is like saying that it would have been sufficient for the founders of the United States to write the American Constitution and show the spirit in which it must be interpreted without providing any government for the country. Would the United States still exist?

One thing that we can all immediately do to smooth the road toward reconciliation between the Churches is to begin reconciling ourselves with our Church.

“You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church”: Jesus says my “Church,” in the singular, not my “churches.” He had thought of and wanted only one Church, not a multiplicity of independent churches, or worse, churches fighting among themselves.

The word “my,” as in “my Church,” is possessive. Jesus recognizes the Church as “his”; he says “my Church” as a man would say “my bride” or “my body.” He identifies himself with it, he is not ashamed of it.

On Jesus’ lips the word “Church” does not have any of those subtle negative meanings that we have added to it.

There is in that expression of Christ a powerful call to all believers to reconcile themselves with the Church. To deny the Church is like denying your own mother. “You cannot have God for father,” St. Cyprian said, “if you do not have the Church for your mother.”

It would be a beautiful fruit of the feast of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul if we too were to learn to say of the Catholic Church to which we belong that it is "my Church!"

I say AMEN, Father!! AMEN!!

Have a blessed solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul today everyone
Pray for unity, pray, pray pray
and let's run to Our Lady, Our Mother
and ask her fervent prayers for us, her children,
to stop bickering, fighting and breaking apart the
Body of Christ even more.
Forgive us, Mama most holy -
Forgive us this atrocious
"sibling rivalry"
and help us to love as we are loved
to forgive as we've been forgiven
and to live out our faith
as One Body.



Tiber Jumper said...

Fr. Cantalamessa is amazing. He's also charismatic and received the "baptism" of the Holy Spirit" in NJ!
At any rate, yes Amen to your prayer Susie.

Tracy said...

Excellent post!!!