A change of seasons

April 1, 2010

 One thing I love about the Catholic faith is the seasons of the liturgical calendar. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, especially today, the beginning of the Paschal Triduum.

Paschal Triduum: A period of three days for the most exalted liturgical celebration of the year, beginning with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening and concluding with Vespers on Easter Sunday, recalling the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, along with His Institution of the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders.

For the last 40 days, the Mass Scripture readings, the prayers and the music have pointed us toward the this triduum celebration. I love this about the Church. There’s no way that Good Friday and Easter can just creep up on you in the Catholic faith.  Instead we’ve been slowing creeping up on it, preparing our hearts and minds through prayer, fasting, going to confession and meditating on Christ’s humility and self-sacrificing love.

And here’s what is so beautiful: We won’t just celebrate Easter for a day and then move on or go back to studying a randomly  selected book of the Bible. We spent 40 days in Lent, a season of repentance and dying to self. For the 50 days following Easter we will celebrate, rejoice and focus on Christ’s resurrection and his time on earth after his resurrection. All the prayers, Scripture readings and music will emphasize this. All of this then leads us to the celebration of Pentecost when He sent His Holy Spirit to lead and guide His Church.

I treasure these seasons and the rhythm of living them with our parish community. I love the preparation and then the joyful celebration. I think we humans are hardwired this way. Just look at the secular world, even they enjoy a change of seasons, reasons to celebrate. It’s so fitting then that God would redeem this part of our human nature and give us a Church that leads us through seasons and celebrations that emphasize the true meaning of life — the grace, salvation and love of God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

So tonight begins the Triduum. We call this Holy Thursday. It’s the night Christ  instituted the Eucharist. He celebrated the Last Supper, consecrated the bread and the wine, and called his 12 disciples to do the same. This is why we also celebrate the institution of Holy Orders today.  

With respect to Holy Orders and the priesthood here’s something to think about…

On the night before He died, Jesus even called Judas to this role of priest. He knew Judas was going to fail him as a priest and betray Him and His Church. The same goes for Peter whom He called to be the rock of the Church and the first pope (click here if you need more Scriptural support for this), except Peter repented. 

It’s interesting to note that the human failings of the disciples didn’t stop Jesus from building His Church and giving us priests to celebrate the Eucharist.  He knew all along there would be faithful priests who would still fall but repent and there would be some unfaithful, unrepentant priests. Maybe we need to have a little more faith and trust that God is in charge of the Church no matter how grieviously some our leaders might fail us.

Tonight my family and I plan to go to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This is a beautiful liturgy. After which the priest removes the Blessed Sacrament (the Body of Christ) from the Tabernacle.  The removal of his tangible, physcial presence from the church is symbolic of His death. 

At my parish, Jesus, who is present in the Blessed Sacrament is taken to an auxiliary chapel, reminiscent of the Garden of Gethsemane. Like the first disciples, we are invited to come and pray with Him “in the Garden” until midnight. After that the Blessed Sacrament is removed. Just as Jesus was taken from the Garden by the soldiers and His disciples were left without Him we too are left without the tangible presence of Christ until we celebrate His resurrection at Easter Vigil on Saturday night.

Last year was the first year Claire understood what was going on at this Mass. As the priest took the Body of Christ from the Tabernacle Claire started to cry. She leaned over and whispered, Mommy, I know Jesus lives in my heart but I don’t want Him to leave the Tabernacle tonight.  I imagine the disciples felt the same when the soldiers dragged their beloved Jesus away.

I don’t know if your church celebrates the Paschal Triduum but if you’re looking for a way to recognize these three solemn and holy days I encourage you to check out your local Catholic Church. You are always welcome and I guarantee that if you come with an open heart and mind you will be blessed by this liturgy.


The Pope, The Rabbi and Condoms

April 6, 2009

I rarely post an entire article on this blog but this article is worth reading. It was brought to my attention by someone in my homeschool support group. You can click on the title below to see the original article.

The Pope, The Rabbi and Condoms

DR. LAURA SCHLESSINGER

During his recent African trip, Pope Benedict XVI said that the distribution of condoms would not resolve the AIDS problem.

The Pope has made it clear that abstinence is going to be the best way to fight AIDS. Google “Pope” and “condoms,” and you’ll never run out of reading material excoriating the man for his observation and opinion. Many health advocates have gone ballistic in their criticism of his comments. They feel it is one thing to promote abstinence as part of the Catholic religion, but that it is an entirely different thing to preach it to the world.

On a person-by-person basis, wearing a condom does, of course, offer some protection against contracting various venereal diseases and (of course) unwanted pregnancy. It is also true that condoms sometimes break, slip, or are put on incorrectly. Everything has its limitations…except abstinence.

I remember listening to a rabbi describing a situation that occurred to his kosher family. His 7 year old child was invited to a birthday party for a classmate at one of those fast-food hamburger establishments. When he came to pick up his child at the end of the party, one of the mothers — clearly annoyed — chastised him for the pain he caused his son. “All the children had hamburgers, chicken nuggets, french fries and dessert, and your little boy had to sit there and eat none of it. Imagine how terrible your son must have felt? How could you do this to him? Food is food. There is nothing sinful about food. What you are doing to him is just cruel.” Just about at the end of her tirade, his son bounded up to him, gave him a huge hug around the waist, and said “I had a great time. This was a fun party.”

The woman blanched and walked away. The rabbi followed her and gently told her the following: animals will eat whatever is around, even if it will make them unhealthy. Humans are to rise above animals and become masters of their urges. Imagine my son in a dorm room where harmful illicit drugs are being passed about. We already know that peer pressure and urges will not force him to relent and give in to the impulse. Learning at his early age to control impulse and desire is not a harmful trait — many times, it might be a life-saving one. Look at him. He enjoyed the company of your son and the rest of the children without giving up his values. He looks happy and satisfied. We really need to bring up our children to be masters of their instincts, not slaves to them, don’t you think?

The woman scowled, but listened to him.

Yes, in any one instance, a condom could protect, but in the overall scheme of humanity, why do so many people wish to push away the enormous protective power of moral values?

When the Pope suggests that human beings are best off saving their sexual passion for the stability of a covenant of marriage, he is making a statement that the act of sexuality is elevated by the context, and ultimately protects both man and woman from a myriad of hurtful consequences from venereal diseases to unwanted pregnancies (complete with abortions, abandonment, single-parenthood, and homelessness to name a few).

The naysayers all have one thing in common: they refuse to believe or accept that human beings can commit to a higher spiritual state of thought and behavior. The Pope believes in us more than that.

I am not Catholic, so this is no knee-jerk defense of my spiritual leader. The truth is that he is simply correct and too many people don’t want to hear it, because they want to live lives unfettered by rules. It is sad that they don’t realize that this makes them a slave to animal impulse versus a master of human potential.

The point Schlessinger makes is significant. It can be applied to all areas of our lives. Are we like animals, slaves to our impulses, fleshly cravings and appetites. Or, are we something more, created to be more–a people created in the image God and called to be slaves to Him and His righteousness?

So, what enslaves you? Are you a slave to people, your need to please others, your need for their respect and recognition. Or perhaps you’re a slave to money or to your appetite for sex, food or drink? The list of masters we may choose to serve is endless…St. Paul has this to say about our choice:

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when offer yourselves to someone (something) to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to one you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads righteousness? (Romans 6: 15-16)  

My prayer for today: Lord, by your grace, help me to be a slave to the obedience that comes by faith and leads to righteousness. Amen


In response to lingo South…

April 10, 2008

I received a comment the other day regarding my post on church hierarchy and Matthew 16. I’ve moved the comment and pasted it below. It’s brings up an interesting point because it addresses a part of the passage that I didn’t focus on in my post. Because I don’t have another post in mind for today and I’m homebound with two sick kids I thought I’d take the time to address the comment and the part of the passage where Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter.

Lingo South’s comment:

 

Hi I agree with your love….unconditional
BUT
I sincerely believe you hve missed the original language of Matthew 16…
The rock the church is buiit upon is not Peter,but the revelation of who Jesus is…
Peter was a tremendous man of God, but Paul wrote the gospel to adn for the gentiles…the rest of the NT was to the Jews…FOR us too, but TO the Jews.
I would ask you to consider taking a look at this link

http://www.exorthodoxforchrist.com/council_of_nicea.htm

Truth is what we should all seek…denominations are not in what Jesus called truth…although belonging to a certain church is not a problem, for me at least, but lets get our allegiance correct. thank you for the work you do.
Blessings
Lingo South

 

Dear Lingo South:

 

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. And thanks for the link. I checked it out and what I read was familiar. I carefully considered many positions just like those put forth on that website before choosing to become Catholic. But I still appreciate the link because it always helps to know where someone is coming from when they post comments on my blog.

 

I really do understand why you wouldn’t agree with the Catholic interpretation of this passage in Matthew. The implications of this interpretation challenge one to re-examine their theology regarding Church leadership and authority and perhaps their beliefs about the Catholic Church.  However, I am convinced that this interpretation of Scripture is logical and consistent. It’s not an effort to somehow distort the text so that it fits a pre-conceived idea or belief system. I believe this because for many years I twisted this passage so that it fit my Reformed beliefs. I twisted it so that I could argue that what Jesus really meant to say was that “the rock” was the revelation about Him instead of letting the passage stand on its own. But that’s not what is going on in this interaction between Jesus and Simon.

 

In this passage (Matt. 16:17-19) Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter, Jesus says “you are Petros (or Kepha in Aramaic – both mean rock) and on this rock I will build my church.” Jesus calls Peter the rock and then says he’ll build his church upon this rock. He doesn’t say that the revelation that Peter was given about Christ’s identity is the rock.  He calls Simon the rock. If you were trying to make the point that the rock was Peter’s revelation about Jesus, then your average high school English teacher would tell you the sentence doesn’t work or make sense. I respect that you disagree with me but the interpretation you’re suggesting isn’t even correct grammatically.  No where does Jesus call Peter’s response “the rock.”   The only noun he calls a rock is Simon when He changes his name to Peter.

 

There is huge significance in the fact that Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter.

In scripture when God changes someone’s name it was a sign of a significant event [think Abram/Abraham]. The significance of this event:  Jesus is establishing His Church upon  Peter and his leadership. [Note: Peter’s primacy among the disciples is pretty clear in scripture]. Jesus declares Peter as the rock upon which the church on earth would be built. Of course this in no way supplants Christ’s authority nor does it mean that one’s allegiance is now to a human instead of God. It’s a both/and kind of thing. Jesus is the head of the Church and as such He can give His authority to anyone He wants. He gave HIS authority (the keys) to Peter and is guiding, leading and protecting His Church through the leadership that He established. He makes it clear that He’ll protect His Church when He says “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

 

Why would Jesus tell Simon he is now called Peter (the rock), then say the church will be built on another rock, but then give Peter the keys of the Kingdom and the power to bind and loose? That just doesn’t make sense. Unless of course, you’re trying to avoid the conclusion that Jesus set up an authoritative position of leadership on which He would build His church.

 

A more consistent and cohesive interpretation is this: Jesus tells Simon he is now to be called Peter (the rock). In the next breath he says His church will be built on this rock and promises to protect His Church from the gates of hell. Then he gives Peter the official authority, the keys of the Kingdom, along with the power to bind and loose so that he can fulfill this role.

 

I’d like to remind you that it’s about Jesus and His Church, Jesus and His authority. It’s about how Jesus will establish and manifest His church and His authority here on earth. It’s not about humans exacting some authority over the Church independent of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Peter is nothing a part from God. Jesus tells Peter that “this was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in heaven.” God, not man, gave this revelation to Peter. Jesus, not man, gave Peter and the Church it’s authority. And our God is certainly big enough to protect this gift of leadership for the church.

 

I think some protest against this interpretation of Matthew 16 because  it just doesn’t fit with their preconceived ideas about how the church should look and because they can’t imagine that the Catholic Church could be right on any matter. The implication that the Catholic interpretation might be correct means that one might have to accept their teachings. Because there’s so much misunderstanding about what the Catholic Church really believes it’s easier to outright dismiss the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16 rather than honestly examine the Catholic faith. It’s easier to twist the text to mean something else so that it fits with one’s preconceived theological worldview. I did that for many years. I would read Matthew 16 and even thought at times that something didn’t seem right with my Reformed interpretation of that passage and yet I never dared to really question it. Well, not until six years ago.

 

When I first realized that Jesus was calling Peter the rock and saying He would build his church on this rock I struggled. I didn’t blindly accept this conclusion and therefore accept all the teachings of the Church. There were far too many theological hurdles for me to overcome at that point. But I couldn’t deny that I’d been twisting that passage to make it fit my beliefs. So, as I examined what this passage meant I also studied the teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals. I soon realized that much of what I thought I knew about the Catholic faith was based on distortions, misperceptions and even a few lies I’d been taught. Eventually I became convinced of the teachings of the Church and its authority.  

 

It’s important to understand that the Catholic Church does not believe that Peter or his successors are personally impeccable and without sin. However, when it comes to official declarations on matters of faith (like the one Peter made in front of the Apostles) and morals (like in Matthew 18), Catholics believe that God has and continues to fulfill His promise to protect His Church. He protects the truth of the faith so that His children will not be led astray by all kinds of teaching that tickles their ears and appeals to their flesh. Without this protection, truth becomes relative. It’s each Christian out for himself coming up with their own private interpretations of scripture and declaring that their interpretation is truth because, well, “Jesus told me so.” This of course leads to the chaos we see in the Christian faith. I don’t believe that this chaos was/is God’s plan for His Church. Truth is not relative therefore each private interpretation of scripture on matters of faith and morals can’t be truth.

 

The early church constantly battled the heresies of their day. Why? Because it was and still is important to preserve the unity and truth of the faith. I believe the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth like the Bible says. It’s not a contradiction to say that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and to say His Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. If that were the case then the Bible would be contradicting itself. The Church is the foundation of truth because Jesus made it so and because God is leading it and guiding it.  I believe it’s a stable foundation meant to hold believers together in unity as a light for the unbelieving world to see. An invisible collection of believers who believe contradicting truths cannot be a pillar and foundation of truth and light for the world to see. Jesus didn’t establish His church so that it could be invisible and hidden like a lamp in a jar or under a bed. What’s the point in that?

  

There are those who claim the Catholic Church has changed its doctrine which would make its claim to uphold the faith false. I’ve not seen definitive evidence of those changes. I’ve seen claims supported by faulty evidence but nothing substantial. I have seen how an understanding of a doctrine has been developed and clarified throughout the centuries but never changed or invented.

 

Of course, just like no Pope is personally impeccable, not everything done by individuals in the Church or in the name of the Church is/was right. However, I firmly believe God protects His Church and the truths of the faith from error when it comes to official teaching on faith and morals. Richard John Neuhaus, a former Lutheran pastor who converted to the Catholic faith, points out in his book Catholic Matters that at some point in a convert’s studies he/she finally takes a step of faith and stops worrying about the “what ifs” such as what if the Church did change a doctrine. There comes a point in time when you see the cohesiveness and beauty of the Catholic faith and its interpretation of scripture . At that point the “what ifs” don’t compare to the hope and love you have in this faith.

 

Based on the website you sent me to it’s clear you don’t agree. We could easily get into a scripture interpretation war. But in the end, for me it would always come back to this question: Why is your interpretation right and my or the Catholic interpretation wrong?” If, as many Christians believe, God didn’t leave us an authoritative church to lead us in truth on matters of faith and morals, and all believers are to come up with truth on their own (either from Scripture or through some direct revelation from Jesus), then why does your personal “truth” trump my “truth?”

 

The bottom line is this: If there is no authority besides the claim that “this is what Jesus tells me and this is how I interpret scripture” then no one can really claim that their beliefs are truth. No one can tell someone else their beliefs about communion are wrong or their beliefs about baptism are heresy. If there is no authority then we can’t know the truth about these things. We can offer our personal convictions about what we think Jesus is saying to us and our private interpretations of scripture. But, it would be pretty arrogant of us to claim our personal convictions and private interpretations of scripture are the truth and those who don’t agree with us are missing it and in error.

 

However, if Christ did give His authority to the Church beginning with Peter and the Apostles and following with their successors then we can have confidence that the truth on matters like communion, baptism, artificial birth control, homosexuality, the church, marriage and divorce etc. have been protected from the gates of hell and can be known and declared to the world. All believers can be unified and speak with one voice instead of the fragmented and divisive voices we hear among believers.

 

Yes, I believe God intended for there to be one authoritative voice and He gave us that voice (His voice) in His Church. And He established that Church on Peter, the first Pope. Without that authority the Church is reduced to an invisible group of individuals, each one doing what is right in their own eyes. The believer and his individual belief system is just one opinion or interpretation among many different Christian belief systems.  

 

Based on your comment I can only conclude that do not believe in an authoritative church when it comes to the truth on matters of faith and morals. If that is the case, perhaps you can offer a reason for why your beliefs are “more right” or authoritative than mine or those of the Catholic faith?

 

In the meantime I suppose we are left with having to respectfully agree to disagree. And I say that with sincere respect for you as a brother in Christ. Some of my dearest friends do not agree with me, nor I with them, but we have great love for one another.

 

As I see it, it’s up to each Christian to inform and follow their conscience. We do not live in a vacuum with Jesus. Truth matters, it mattered to the Apostles and the early Church and it should matter to us. History matters. The history of the Jews matteres God and should matter to us. The history of the early church matters. It’s our family tree. In my opinion this means that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we should inform our conscience with an objective and prayerful examination of Sacred Scripture and Church history (which includes Sacred Tradition). Each person must follow his conscience. But, we he has a responsibility to inform his conscience.

When I stepped out of the Reformed theology bubble I’d created for myself and began to objectively examine the faith I came to believe that God established and protected a visible authoritative Church here on earth. I believe that Church is the Roman Catholic Church. And lest you think that it’s simply about denominations and allegiance to something other than my Father in heaven let me make it clear that it’s the visible expression of Christ’s love and who Christ is that I’ve seen through the Church and it’s teaching that daily draws me closer to my Jesus. Slowly the Holy Spirit is transforming me into Christ’s image, the image of love. And for me, this is what matters most.

 

Thanks again for commenting and asking me to look at that link. It’s always good to be challenged to think about the reasons for my faith in Christ and His Church. Peace to you.

 

Amy

 


Is Church Hierarchy Biblical?

December 30, 2007

 

 A recent comment by “3circlescommunity” on one of My Story posts, “Who canonized Scripture?” touched on a number of topics and some comments regarding the Catholic faith. I plan to take the time to address some of the issues brought up in this comment. If you would like to read the comment and dialogue thus far then click here. My previous post “The Priesthood of the Faithful”  includes my response to the comment. 

***

Before I begin let me say that I’m not a Bible scholar nor a trained theologian. I’m simply a Christian sharing my faith in and my love for Jesus as well as what I’ve learned as I’ve studied the Bible and Protestant and Catholic theology. I love the written Word of God and have fallen more and more in love with Jesus and His Church, through the teachings of the Catholic faith. Prayerfully I am being transformed by this growing love and by His love into His image. 

I am more than willing to share my passion for Christ and the Catholic faith when asked or challenged. The Bible tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope we have. These are some of my answers for the hope I have in Christ and in His Body, the Church. I pray they are received in a spirit of love regardless of your denomination, non-denomination or faith tradition.            

 
***
 

Topic: Does Peter (or the Bible for that matter) teach that there is no formal church hierarchy such as priests (presbyters), bishops (episcopate or overseers), deacons or even popes?

I don’t see in Scripture where Peter explicitly or implicitly states that he is moving, as you say, “from a strict hierarchical church structure with Pope and Bishops and priests…” Actually, as I read Scripture I see that Peter has no problem with church authority and hierarchy.

At a cursory glance I created a list of verses that either explicitly teach on church leadership/hierarchy or imply some type of hierarchy of leadership and authority  exists in the Church (i.e. bishops, presbyters, elders, overseers, deacons).

I Peter 2:13; 5:1-2
 Galatians 2:3 & 9
I Thes. 3:2
Acts Chapter 15
I Timothy 3:8
Acts 15:24
I Timothy Chapter 3
John 20:21-22
2 Timothy 1:6-8

 

*** 

Of all the passages though in scripture that persuaded me to reconsider my beliefs about church hierarchy, authority and the ministerial priesthood of the Catholic Church, Matthew 16:16-19 and Isaiah 22:20-24, have had the greatest impact. Let’s start with Matthew 16:

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mathew 16: 16-19)

 It’s hard to dispute that in this passage of Scripture Jesus gives Peter authority over the Church. Here are just a few things this passage tells us:

  • He tells him that God the Father has given him a revelation knowledge—knowledge that it appears was not given to any of the other disciples.
  •  Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter and tells him he will build the Church upon Peter, the rock.
  •  And most importantly Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven and He tells Peter that whatever “you” bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever “you” loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Interesting points, but what did Jesus mean when He gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter (notice he didn’t give them to anyone else)? What did He mean when told him he had the power to bind and loose?

***

To better understand this reference to the keys of the kingdom of heaven and binding and loosing we have to think like a Jew (like the disciples) living during that time. Jews who heard this testimony passed down through oral tradition until it was recorded in the book of Matthew and Jews who would later read this testimony once recorded would most likely associate Jesus’ comments to Peter with the following passage in Isaiah 22. Isaiah 22:20-23:

“In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father.

Notice the references to the key to the house of David and to what he opens no one and shut and what he shuts one can open? The similarities to the passage in Matthew 16 are of no coincidence. But what does it mean and what does it have to do with hierarchy and authority in the church?

***

Like I said, I’m not a Bible scholar but in my studies of the Catholic faith I read what Protestant Bible scholars and Catholic Bible scholars both had to say about this passage in Matthew. Obviously I was convinced by what the Catholic Bible scholars and theologians had to say. I will draw on the Biblical exegesis and expertise of others as I share how one might interpret these Scripture passages. I have paraphrased many points from Stephen K. Ray’s book on Upon This Rock. Ray’s book is heavily footnoted and his examination of these passages includes reviewing the work of Protestant scholars.

  
  In Isaiah chapter 22, Isaiah the great Prophet of Israel is pronouncing judgment, displacing Shebna, the royal steward of the king and appointing Eliakim to succeed him as the steward. The office of steward was a permanent office within the Eastern kingdoms. The “steward” or the one “over the house” or the “master of the palace” was second to the king. The person who was “over the house” had the whole of the domestic affairs of the sovereign under his superintendence. The steward ruled in the place or in the absence of the king… The king’s steward in Isaiah is clearly the backdrop against which the Lord Jesus proclaims Peter the keeper of the keys in Matthew 16. (Upon This Rock, p. 38-39).

  • The royal steward in Judah is called “father.” Just as the Pope is called Father (Pope means “papa”), so the steward was called father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, which is a prefigure of the Church.
  • The office was dynastic in that it was a continuing position and was filled whenever vacated. In this case (in Isaiah 22), Eliakim replaced Shebna as the royal steward for Hezekiah, king of Judah (2 Kings 18:18). The disciples would have understood that this appointment of Peter was also a “dynastic” role, one that would have successors. (Upon This Rock, p. 38 &39)

Hmmm…an authoritative steward position over the kingdom, who is a father figure and has successors. Sounds a lot like…a pope!

If you’re a non-Catholic and you’re reading this you may strongly disagree with this interpretation . I am well aware that there are other interpretations of Matthew 16. Ones that deny Jesus was establishing Peter as the rock upon which He would build His church. Ones that suggest the rock was really Peter’s profession that Christ was the Son of God. My husband I read and studied these Protestant interpretations as well. 

When I read Isaiah 22 and what Bible scholars had to say about the relationship to Matthew 16 it made sense. However, I didn’t like that it made sense. Why? Because if this interpretation was correct that meant there was the possibility that the Catholic Church (the only Church with the Pope, the successor of Peter) might actually have legitimate authority given to it by Christ. I had so many questions about the Catholic faith and lots of doubts and yet…I couldn’t deny the cohesiveness of the Catholic interpretation of these passages. One of the most persuasive things about the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16 is the link to the Old Testament and history. When it comes to understanding the New Testament you just can’t beat what you find in the Old Testament and in history.

Jesus knew he was leaving to go be with the Father. He was establishing His Church here on earth and placing His authority in the hand of his chosen steward, Peter. Of course all of this is not the norm for our modern day way of thinking. We don’t think in terms of kingdoms and stewards and keys, authority and binding and loosing. We 21st century Americans and most modern day Christians think in terms of democracy and our rights, our personal authority and freedoms. But Jesus and his disciples were Jews. He and his followers thought in terms of  kingdoms. Jesus came to establish a kingdom. He is the King and He was appointing a steward, one he could entrust with the keys of the kingdom.

The keys are an important part of these two passages. This mention of the key is found three times in Scripture (Isaiah 22:22; Matthew 16:19; Revelation 3:7). In Revelation 3:7 we find: “The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens.” Jesus possesses the keys. In using the terminology of Isaiah, Jesus is telling the Church that Peter has been given his key, his authority. He does this just as one delegates authority to a vicar or deputy. Whereas Christ is the invisible head of the Church, Peter is to be the visible head of the Church (Upon This Rock, p. 40).

Then there is the issue the steward having the authority to “open and shut” in Isaiah and Christ giving Peter the authority to “bind and loose.” Binding and loosing were terms common in Rabbinic canon-law. They referred to the legislative and judicial powers of the Rabbinic office – the power to declare things lawful or unlawful, to permit or to prohibit. (Upon This Rock, p. 38). This is the power that Jesus conferred on Peter. If this isn’t a form of hierarchical authority then I don’t know what is.  

Here some other interesting similarities between the King’s steward over the kingdom and the pope:

*** 

In light of this interpretation of Matthew 16 and Isaiah 22 I have to disagree with my brother in Christ, “3circlescommunity” and his suggestion that Peter was moving away from a hierarchical understanding of the Church and its leadership. More important than that, it’s clear that Jesus had a hierarchical Church in mind when He told Peter, “upon this rock I will build my church and I will give you the keys to the kingdom and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

There’s so much more that could be said about the role of the Pope and I haven’t even touched on the ministerial priesthood. But, I think I’ve given sufficient reason for why I believe the Bible teaches Jesus founded a Church with hierarchical and authoritative leadership. You may or may not agree with me. In which case I would say it’s a matter of interpretation and personal conscience. If you think that the Catholic Church and I are wrong, I would ask, by what authority do you declare your interpretation of scripture to be truth and the Catholic interpretation to be false? If you can’t stake claim to some legitimate authority to declare your interpretation as truth then at the very least you must grant that the Catholic interpretation of scripture is as equally valid as your own interpretation.

As a result of studying I slowly became convinced that God did establish a hierarchical and authoritative Church. I’ve come to believe that God meant for it to be a visible Church, not just an invisible, abstract concept of a spiritual family of God. No, the Church is to be a visible sign of unity, protected so that it stands as a light to the world today.

*** 

That last point is so important. Jesus promises to protect his Church. He tells us “the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Catholics believe that God has protected the Church. Although the Church is full of both sinners and saints, wheat and tares, the Catholic Church is still standing. But more importantly despite the human sin and scandals of some of our leaders (some of which make your heart sick with grief, including the sexual abuse scandals of this century), the doctrinal teaching of the Church on matters of faith and morals has not wavered.

This leads to another topic I found lurking in the comments made by “3circlescommunity:”

Topic: Do scandals or the personal sins and errors of leaders in the Catholic Church somehow prove its doctrinal teachings on matters of faith and morals are wrong?

I’ll try to address that at another time. In the meantime if you are interested in reading more about what the Catholic Church believes about the papacy and also about the ministerial priesthood here are a few links to some articles on the subject.

Another one of my posts on the subject

Catholic Answers – Did Jesus Give Priests to the Church?

Catholic Answers Network – Peter and the Keys

Catholic Answers - Why We Have a Ministerial Priesthood


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