Friends, today’s Gospel spells out the importance of Peter’s confession. For it is upon this inspired confession that the Church is built. Not, mind you, on popular opinion, which is shifting and indecisive, and not on personal holiness, which is all too rare. It is built upon the inspired authority of Peter—and I say, “thank God!”
We make this troubling and extraordinary claim that it is through a special charism of the Spirit that Peter and his successors govern the Church. Now, I realize that I have many Protestant readers and that this text has been, between Catholics and Protestants, a stumbling block. Let me clarify what is and is not at stake here.
What is the focus of Peter’s confession? It has to do with who Jesus is. This is the rock upon which the Church is built. We don’t say for a moment that all of Peter’s practical decisions are right, that everything he says is right. But we are saying that he is right about who Jesus is: a man who is also the Son of the living God. And this is the source and ground of the whole operation.