TWENTY FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
(Green) Cycle A/Year I (August 27, 2017)
Is 22:19-23/Rom 11:33-36/Mt 16:13-20
When Jesus asked His apostles “Who do you say that I am,” Peter immediately replied “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16b). Jesus Christ said to Peter: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18).
Peter was described by Jesus to be the rock upon which Jesus built His Church. It is true that in the Bible, the real Rock is no other than God, the Creator and Savior. He is the Rock of man’s defense and salvation. But here in the biblical passage, it is clear that the rock being described is not God Himself. The subject of the biblical passage is Peter. The rock can be the faith of Peter which at that moment became the very first faith in Jesus, the Messiah, which would enkindle the faith of the whole Church. Moreover, Peter is the rock in the sense that He was the first man to discover who Jesus Christ was. He was the first man to believe in Jesus as the Son of the living God. He became the first member of the Church and thus, in him the Church was built by Christ.
Because of the privilege given to him by God, Jesus Christ gave him a great responsibility: “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt. 16:19). This “binding and loosing” power given to Peter was also actually given to the rest of the Apostles in communion with Peter.
The first understanding of this “binding and loosing” power refers to the Sacrament of Confession. The Church has been given by Jesus the power to forgive sins through her ministers, the bishops and the priests. In the sacrament of Confession, it is not the priest who forgives us of our sins but rather Jesus Himself. The priest simply acts in the name and in the person of Jesus Christ. Since this sacrament of mercy is freely given to us by God, we must avail of it in order for us to be forgiven of our sins.
Another meaning of the “binding and loosing” power refers to the power of the Church to declare what is morally and doctrinally certain regarding our faith and morals. It is the duty of the Church to guide the faithful in the true teachings of Jesus Christ. The Church then must ascertain to us what is correct that must be adhered to and what is erroneous that must be avoided regarding our Catholic Faith.
Lastly, the “binding and loosing” power also refers to the power of the Church to exclude from the communion of the church anybody who has defected from the Catholic faith or to include into the communion of the church anybody who has willed to be baptized or to be reintegrated in the Church. The former is what is commonly known as the excommunication which is a penalty imposed to a member due to a serious and grave crime committed against the catholic faith and teaching.