I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH’ (Matt. 16:18)

THEME: ‘I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH’ (Matt. 16:18)
READINGS: Isaiah 22:19-23Romans 11:33-36 / Matthew 16:13-20
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

According to today’s gospel reading, Jesus Christ said that He would build His Church (Matt. 16:18). This homily reflects on four of the key points concerning the building of the Church:

  1. Jesus is the Founder of the Church, and it belongs to Him
  2. Jesus builds His Church on the faith confessed by St. Peter
  3. Jesus chooses human leaders to ensure the passing on of the Church’s founding faith
  4. The Church is a sure Gate to Heaven
  1. Jesus is the Founder of the Church and it belongs to Him

In saying that, ‘I will build My Church’ (Matt. 16:18), Jesus Christ makes it clear that He is the Founder of the Church, and it belongs to Him. And because this ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church’ (Nicene Creed) belongs to Christ, who is divine and almighty, ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail over it’ (Matt. 16:18). Therefore, until Christ comes again, all the direct and indirect attacks of the evil one can only scratch the surface (external aspects) of the Church. That is why the ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church’ has stood firm on its rock-foundation for 2,000 years, despite the persecutions, blasphemies, and other attacks. Indeed, ‘if God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Rom. 8:31). Beloved, with Christ, the Son of God, on our side we are counted among the ultimate winners!

  1. Jesus builds His Church on the faith confessed by St. Peter

According to the gospel reading, Jesus asked His disciples, ‘Who do the people say I am?’ and ‘Who do you say I am?’ By asking these questions, Jesus led His disciples to know His true identity and to confess it. It was St. Peter who got the answer right to the question about Jesus’ identity: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’ (Matt. 16:16).

It is this faith in Jesus (as being both the Christ and the Son of God) which is the rock on which He has built His Church. In other words, the foundation of the Church is faith in Jesus as the expected Messiah who is, at the same time, the Son of God. Therefore, beloved, if anyone should preach that there is another saviour of the world, he/she is not worthy of being listened to. And should someone else preach that Jesus Christ is not the only begotten Son of God, he/she is an anti-Christ, and he/she must be ignored (cf. 1 John 2:18,22).

  1. Jesus chooses human leaders to ensure the passing on of the Church’s founding faith

Until Jesus Christ, the divine Head of the Church, comes again in glory, the Church’s founding faith has to be faithfully passed on from one generation to another. To ensure this, Christ appoints human leaders, beginning with St. Peter, as instruments of the Holy Spirit. Jesus appointed St. Peter, because our heavenly Father manifested His choice by revealing His Son’s identity through Peter (cfMatt. 16:17). The appointment goes with an awesome authority: ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matt. 16:19). This great authority is, however, for service. St. Peter and his successors (the popes), as instruments of the Holy Spirit and servants of Christ, are to be at the service of the divine Persons for the salvation of souls. Beloved, since the all-holy Lord is our ultimate Head, let us serve Him in holiness.

  1. The Church is a sure Gate to Heaven

The Church is not a social club of good people. In other words, Christ did not establish the Church with the sole aim of promoting good human existence on this earth. Rather, the Church has, first and foremost, a spiritual goal: the eternal life of souls. The Church is a sign and an instrument by which God brings humans into communion with Him in heaven. Thus, the Church could be described simply as a sure gate to heaven. Hence, St. Peter, whom the Lord made the leader of the Church, was entrusted with the keys of the Church as the gate of heaven. That is, through the ministry of St. Peter and the other apostles and disciples, many would receive from God the grace to enter heaven. So, beloved, though unlike St. Peter, we have not been given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, we have roles to play for more souls to enter the kingdom of heaven. Our roles include witnessing to our faith through words and deeds, as well as teaching and encouraging others to seek Christ.

Conclusion

Beloved, Jesus is the Founder of the Church. Indeed, the Church belongs to Him and not to any human leader. Our faith should, therefore, not be in any human leader, but in only Jesus, who, as St. Peter confessed, is not just a human Messiah but the very Son of the Living God. However, human leaders are necessary to ensure the faithful passing on of the faith expressed by St. Peter; and so Jesus chooses them to guide the Church, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Finally, Jesus has made the Church a sure gate to heaven, i.e. an instrument by which people will receive the grace to enter heaven. By witnessing to our faith through words and deeds, and by teaching and encouraging others to seek Christ may the Holy Spirit lead us and many other souls into Paradise. Amen!

By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis

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Fr. John Louis

Fr. John Louis

Very Rev. Fr. John Kobina Louis is a priest of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana.

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