SOLEMNITY: Sts Peter and Paul ABC

Matthew 16, 13-19

lectionary bible


13.  When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of man is?’

14.   And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’

15.  ‘But you,’ he said, ‘who do you say I am?’

16.  Then Simon Peter spoke up and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

17.  Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a blessed man! Because it was no human agency that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.

18.  So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community. And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it.

19.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’


The New Jerusalem Bible 1985




The Sunday passage records two questions posed by Jesus to his disciples in the region of Caesarea Philippi, a place revered in the past for the Baal cult, the god Pan, a temple dedicated to Caesar Augustus, and the Roman destroyers of Jerusalem. Unlike Luke and Mark, Matthew — by keeping the location — may have intended to emphasize and contrast the significant scene of Peter’s confession of Jesus against ancient religious and nationalistic connections of pagan, Jewish, and Roman origins with the city.

In the ancient Mediterranean world the other-oriented people live in what anthropologists speak of as dyadic or collectivistic societies. People count on others’ perceptions to derive a sense of their identity, unlike many contemporary societies which focus on the private self, on what the person defines oneself to be based on one’s personality traits and behaviours.

Jesus’ first question pointed to his public self as viewed by the people he had interacted with. Within such an honour-shame society, Jesus was concerned about his honour as mediated by the role he has exercised and perceived as a holy man and a prophet like John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah.

His second question was posed to seek the view of his collective self within the in-group of his disciples toward whom he is commissioned. Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God — that is of Israel  — thereby identifying him within his surrogate family of the people of Israel, or what anthropologists call a fictive kin group, rather than his family of origin.



As the recipient of the esoteric knowledge revealed by the Father in heaven Simon Bar-Jonah or son of Jonah was given the new name Peter, as Abram was called Abraham when made the founder of the new people of God. Neither in Greek nor Aramaic was the word for rock used as a personal name until Jesus called Simon as Peter to symbolize his new role as the rock foundation of his new community — the ekklesia, the people of God called out and forth.

In both Old and New Testaments, the pattern of God using the weak in life circumstances like Abraham and the sinner like Paul for new missions recurred time and again. Despite the human weakness of its members, the community called Church Jesus founded would prevail against the power of death or demons.  This confidence lies in the origin of the Church being from God; the Church’s real and true foundation is Jesus Christ, is God. The Church’s mission is to free the elect from forces that have dominion over the death of the body and eternal death.



Given the “keys of Heaven’s kingdom” Peter like Jesus becomes broker to God’s blessings, having the keys and power to open or close entrance [cf Isaiah 22, 22]   to all who would enter God’s City through the Christian community. The authoritative teaching of “binding and loosing” refers to Peter’s primacy in matters of faith in the administration of the community through making necessary doctrinal or juridical decisions. Peter’s authority of including or excluding members in the community is also conferred to the community [Mat 18, 18]. Catholic exegetes maintain that the powers conferred on Peter makes him head of the Church after Jesus’ death and to the apostolic group there and then, inferring implicitly that the powers extend to Peter’s successors in the abiding structure Jesus made in his enduring promises.


Sources consulted

Bruce J Malina and Richard L Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels. Fortress Press 2003.

John J Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle A.  The Liturgical Press 1995.

Brian P Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes on Matthew 16, 13-20.  2014.

The New Jerusalem Bible 1985.





In catechesing adults, adolescents, and children themes derived from the gospel passage could be developed.

Key themes include:


Belief in Jesus Christ.

Belief in the Holy Catholic and apostolic Church.




Mat 16, 16-19  >  CCC  424, 440

I believe in Jesus Christ.

Jesus accepted Peter’s profession of faith which acknowledges Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  On the rock of this faith confessed by Peter Christ built his Church.  Like St Peter — moved by the prompting of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father — we too make this confession.

Mat 16, 16   >  CCC 442

I believe in Jesus Christ “the only Son of God”

Jesus solemnly told Peter that it was his Father who had made this revelation known to him and not through his human means.  This confession constitutes the centre of the apostolic faith as the foundation of the Church.  St Paul also receives a special revelation regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus.

Mat 16, 17  >  CCC 153, 442

I believe

One characteristic of faith is that it is a grace.  Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Son of the living God was revealed him by the Father.  The faith of Peter was a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by God, a grace to move him, the interior help of the Holy Spirit to convert his heart to God and open his mind to accept and believe the truth.

Mat 16, 18-19  >  CCC 881, 424, 442, 869

I believe in the Holy Catholic and apostolic Church:

the Pope as head of the college of bishops

Jesus made Simon — now called Peter  — alone the rock of his Church which is indestructible, gave him the keys of the Church, and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock.  The pastoral office of binding and loosing of Peter now extended to his successors — with the college of bishops united with them — constitutes the very foundation of the Church.

Mat 16, 18  >  CCC 552-553, 586

I believe in Jesus Christ: Mysteries of Jesus’ public life

On his confession of faith, Simon Peter was entrusted with the specific authority of the keys of the kingdom of heaven.  Peter’s specific ministry of the “power of the keys” designates him with the authority to govern the Church, the house of God.


Catechism of the Catholic Church, Burns & Oates 2006.






Therefore, the Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against people or any harassment of them on the basis of their race, color, condition in life or religion. Accordingly, following the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, the sacred Council earnestly begs the Christian faithful to ‘conduct themselves well among the Gentiles’ (1 Pet 2, 12) and if possible, as far as depends on them, to be at peace with all (cf Rom 12, 18), and in that way to be true children of the Father who is in heaven (cf Mat 5, 45).

Vatican Council 2

Relation of the Church to non-Christian religions – Nostra aetate 5, 1965.


The apostles Peter and Paul learnt from their experiences to be inclusive in admitting people of different religious and cultural backgrounds into the communities of Christ’s followers.  

How might we in our parish, BECs, and families follow their footsteps in being more inclusive?




Faithful Choices



With the Pope and the universal Church we pray:

  • That the unemployed may receive support and find the work they need to live in dignity.
  • That Europe may rediscover its Christian roots through the witness of believers.
  • That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
  • That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.       


We would probably go to confession to Peter sooner than to any of the other apostles. He is perhaps a more striking example of the simple fact of holiness. Jesus says to us as he said, in effect, to Peter: “It is not you who have chosen me, but I who have chosen you. Peter, it is not human wisdom that makes it possible for you to believe, but my Father’s revelation. I, not you, build my Church.”

Paul‘s experience of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was the driving force that made him one of the most zealous, dynamic and courageous ambassadors of Christ the Church has ever had. But persecution, humiliation and weakness became his day-by-day carrying of the cross, material for further transformation. The dying Christ was in him; the living Christ was his life.

St Anthony Messenger 


St Peter and St Paul through their witness and teaching impart “the beginnings of right religion” to us the Church.  

How might God’s initiative in the vocation and conversion of

Sts Peter and Paul and

the apostles’ zeal in evangelization

motivate us in our prayer and life to be

missionaries in our own time and place? 





In union with peoples of various lands, we remember:

29 June  Ramadan begins in Malaysia

5 July      International Day of Cooperatives


Those who have received the good news and who have been gathered by it into the community of salvation can and must communicate and spread it.

On evangelization in the modern world – Evangelii nuntiandi 13

Pope Paul 6th   Apostolic exhortation 1975

The Embrace of Sts Peter and Paul     Vatopedi Monastery   Mt Athos   Greece    late 12th century

The Embrace of Sts Peter and Paul
Vatopedi Monastery Mt Athos Greece
late 12th century


Jesus the Son of the living God identified himself with his surrogate family beyond his relationship with his Father in heaven and his family of origin.

This icon in early Byzantine art of the embraced apostles Peter and Paul symbolizes universal Christian values of concord, communion, and love.

How could our BECs work toward becoming a broader surrogate family to its members?





Through slow and painful experiences the life witness of St Peter and St Paul was characterized by dialogue and a movement toward greater inclusiveness.

How could these pillars of the founding Church

be models of

my own growth in that direction

when I encounter diverse views and attitudes

among people I live and work with?