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Association of the Miraculous Medal
Weekly Gospel Reflection
Besides her great privilege of being the Mother of God, Mary was also her Son’s first disciple. She is often called the Model, or Exemplar of the Church. Following her example, we walk with her through the Gospels as we reflect on her response to God in her life.

August 24, 2014—Twenty-First Sunday In Ordinary Time

  Matthew 16:13-20

by
Father Oscar Lukefahr, C.M.

A guy appeared at the Pearly Gates and Saint Peter said to him, "Nice jacket. But you won’t need it where you’re going."

There are lots of stories about Peter guarding heaven’s gates, indicating that he has a special place in Christ’s kingdom. That comes from today’s Gospel, where Jesus does more than make Peter a gatekeeper. He says: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven."

The apostles who heard these words would have remembered the Kingdom of David, where there was an official, the master of the palace, the keeper of the keys, second to the king. Jesus was making Peter his master of the palace. Jesus wanted his Church to endure, and so made Peter and his successors, the popes, his second in command until the end of time.

Jesus promises that the gates of the netherworld will not prevail. This doesn’t mean that popes can’t sin. Peter sinned when he denied Christ, and some popes have sinned grievously. But it does mean that Peter and his successors will not mislead the Church in matters necessary for salvation. The Father revealed to Peter the identity of Jesus, and the Father has guided the popes so that the gates of hell would not prevail. This guidance is called the gift of infallibility. It means that under certain conditions, when the pope as leader of the Church intends to teach infallibly and proclaims a matter of faith essential for salvation, he is kept from error. The pope doesn’t create something new. When he defines a doctrine, as Pius XII did for the dogma of the Assumption in 1950, he declares what the Church has always believed.

The papacy is one more way Jesus leads his Church. Through the visible sign of the papacy, Jesus calls his Church to truth, unity, and love. Peter and the popes don’t just guard the Pearly Gates. They are the Rock on which Christ built his Church, and we thank God that the gates of hell will not prevail.


Read last week's reflection.