St. Peter and His Successors Must be the Rock of Truth Amid So Many Stumbling Blocks

Peter and his successors cannot grant to themselves the right to do with the Church what they please, as though the Church ‘belongs’ to them.. They must be the rock of truth amid so many stumbling blocks that seek to shake it.

Newsroom (14/08/2023 09:00,Gaudium Press ) The Divine Master employed an excellent method of teaching: He attracted crowds through gestures and words, He unmasked the errors of the Pharisees with wisdom, and He evangelised through parables which were always permeated with examples drawn from everyday life.

A recurrent symbolism in the Gospels is that of the stone or rock, evocative of the solidity with which, for example, a house must be founded upon, otherwise the whole construction will be ruined (cf. Mt 7:24-27). Christ also uses this metaphor to illustrate the mission of the first Pontiff: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will never prevail against it” (Mt 16:18). As Pope Saint Gregory the Great explains in a letter to Bishop Eulogius, this passage indicates that the Church was established on the foundation of the Prince of the Apostles, whose name “Peter” refers to “rock”, in analogy to the firmness by which his soul should excel.

It should also be emphasised that, in establishing the Petrine ministry, Jesus uses the expression “My” Church, precisely to point out that it is consolidated on the “cornerstone” (Acts 4:11; Eph 2:20), that is, Christ Himself. Peter and his successors could not, therefore, arrogate to themselves the right to do with the Church as they pleased, as if it ‘belonged’ to them. For this reason, they would be urged to base their conduct on the life and teachings of the Redeemer; otherwise, they would receive the Lord’s rebuke: “Depart from Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me, for you do not think the things of God, but the things of men” (Mt 16:23).

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It is clear, moreover, that the whole strength of the Church emanates from her connection with the Most High, as opposed to the profane and unfaithful. Thus, the first words of Peter and the Apostles addressed to Judaism were a cry to break with the secularist and outdated mentality of the Sanhedrin: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). In his second letter, Peter also foretold that false teachers would appear, with pernicious heresies, dissolute doctrines and feigned speeches, to undermine orthodoxy (cf. II Pet 2:1-3).

In opposition to this, the Petrine mission is to be the rock of truth in the midst of so many stumbling blocks that seek to shake the Church. Indeed, the hammer of autocratic regimes, the vagaries of vain philosophy and the glitter of false doctrines have sought over the centuries to dilapidate and disfigure this unshakeable rock. It is well known, however, that the most effective method employed by the children of darkness against the edifice of the Church is the attack on its foundations, especially when it strikes at the first principles of intelligence and morality, preventing man from rightly discerning truth from error, good from evil.

For this reason, the Princes of the Church, as the summits of this sacred rock, must be special custodians of “sound doctrine” (1 Tim 1:10), “models of the flock” (1 Pet 5:3), first of all building their own house (cf. 1 Tim 3:4-5); otherwise, as stumbling blocks, they will bring great ruin (cf. Mt 7:27) to themselves and to countless souls.

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Text taken from the Heralds of the Gospel Magazine no. 236, August 2021. Editorial.

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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