Our Lord responds to this confession by re-naming Simon “Peter,” a name meaning “rock.” But, the Pope said, Jesus gives Simon this name “not for his own personal qualities or his human merits, but on account of his genuine and firm faith, which comes from on high.”
Simon’s faith is a gift from God the Father, a dependable, trustworthy faith upon which our Lord can build His Church – His community, the Pope said, that is, all of us. Our Lord founds His Church on faith, on a relationship with Himself, a relationship of love and trust. When He began His Church, Jesus was looking for a solid faith from His disciples — that was the reason for His question in the Gospel, “Who do you say that I am?”
“What happened in a unique way in Saint Peter,” the Pope said, “also takes place in every Christian who develops a sincere faith in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Addressing the crowd, Pope Francis asked, “What does your faith look like?” Is it a firm, rock-like faith? Or is it sandy, that is doubtful, mistrustful, unbelieving? The Lord, he said, is searching for faith in our hearts – not necessarily a perfect faith, but a sincere, genuine faith.
When He finds it, the Pope said, our Lord “will see in us, too, the living rocks on which He builds His community.” Jesus is the unique cornerstone, while Peter, the rock, is the visible foundation of the unity of the Church… but, the Holy Father reminded us, every baptized person is called to offer to Jesus his or her own faith, poor but sincere, so that He can continue to build His Church today, in every part of the world.
Pope Francis concluded his address by recalling Jesus’ question to St Peter: “Who do you say that I am?” That question, he said, is addressed to each of us today. How will we answer that question? We must think about the answer, but even more, the Pope said, we must pray to God the Father, that He might give us the answer, that He might give us the gift to respond with sincere hearts.
This, he said, “is a confession of faith, this is the creed” – and the Pope, the Successor of Peter, echoing the faith of Peter, lead the crowd in the profession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Below, please find Vatican Radio’s translation of Pope Francis’ Angelus address for Sunday, 24 August 2014, the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time.
The Gospel of this Sunday (Mt 16:13-20) is the celebrated passage, central to Matthew’s account, in which Simon, in the name of the Twelve, professes his faith in Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”; and Jesus calls Simon “blessed” for his faith, recognizing in it a special gift of the Father. He says to [Simon], “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.”
Let us pause for a moment on this point, on the fact that Jesus bestows on Simon this new name, “Peter,” that in Jesus’ language [Aramaic] was “Kepha,” a word meaning “rock.” In the Bible, this name, this term, “rock,” referred to God. Jesus attributes this name to Simon not for his own personal qualities or his human merits, but on account of his genuine and firm faith, which comes from on high.
Jesus feels a great joy in His heart, because He recognizes in Simon the hand of the Father, the action of the Holy Spirit. He recognizes that God the Father has given Simon a “dependable” faith, upon which He, Jesus, can build His Church, that is, His community, that is, all of us. All of us. Jesus intend to give live to “His” Church, a people founded not on offspring, but on faith, that is to say, on a relationship with Himself, a relationship of love and trust. Our relationship with Jesus builds the Church. And so to begin His Church Jesus needs to find in His disciples a solid faith, “dependable” faith. This is what He must confirm at this point in the journey, and this is why He asks the question.
The Lord has in mind the image of building, the image of the community as an edifice. And so, when He hears Simon’s frank profession of faith, He calls him “rock,” and makes clear His intention of building His Church on this faith.
Brothers and sisters, what happened in a unique way in Saint Peter, also takes place in every Christian who develops a sincere faith in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God. Today’s Gospel challenges each of us: How is your faith? Let each of us answer in our heart. How is your faith? How is it? What does the Lord find in our hearts: a firm heart, like a rock? Or a heart like sand, that is, doubtful, mistrustful, unbelieving? It would do us good to think about this throughout the day. If the Lord finds in our hearts a faith – I won’t say perfect, but sincere, genuine, then He will see in us, too, the living rocks on which He builds His community. For this community, the foundation stone is Christ, the unique cornerstone. For his part, Peter is the rock, as the visible foundation of the unity of the Church; but every baptized person is called to offer to Jesus his or her own faith, poor but sincere, so that He can continue to build His Church, today, in every part of the world.
Even in our days, many people think that Jesus is a great prophet, a teacher of wisdom, a model of justice… And even today, Jesus asks His disciples – that is, us, all of us – “But you, who do you say that I am?” A prophet? A teacher of wisdom? A model of justice? How will we answer? Let us think about it. But above all let us pray to God the Father, that He will give us the answer, and through the intercession of the Virgin Mary; let us pray that He will give us the gift to respond with sincere hearts: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This is a confession of faith, this is a the creed. But we can say it three times, together:
[Pope Francis with the faithful:] You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.