Holy Eucharist for Confession of St. Peter
Thursday, January 18, 2024, 12:00 PM
Join us to commemorate this feast day with a simple Holy Eucharist in the church at 12:00 p.m. All are welcome.
The most prominent of Jesus' twelve closest disciples was a Galilean fisherman known as Simon. Jesus nicknamed him "the Rock," or in Aramaic, Cephas. However, he is best known to us by the Greek form of the nickname: Peter.
In each of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), a climactic moment occurs when Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is. They first respond, "Some people say you are John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the prophets." "But who do you say that I am?" Jesus responds. Peter then blurts out: "You are the Messiah!"
In Matthew's gospel, which gives the fullest version of this event, Jesus replies: "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I say to you: you are Peter (the Rock), and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not withstand it. I give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Because Peter is traditionally identified as the first bishop of Rome, Roman Catholic teaching has often seen these words as an endorsement of the authority of the pope, understood as the successor of Peter. Protestant teaching typically understands Jesus' words as having been directed to Peter alone, or to Peter as a representative of all the disciples.
In any case, Jesus' high praise for Peter is coupled with critique. Immediately after this exchange, Peter rebukes Jesus for predicting his own crucifixion, and Jesus replies, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block for me. You have your mind on human things, not God's things." Throughout the gospels, Peter's closeness to Jesus is coupled with his human fallibility. Peter is a model for us both of faithful discipleship and also of failing to get it right and continuing to love and follow Jesus.
The week between January 18, the Confession of St. Peter, and January 25, the Conversion of St. Paul, is observed as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, when all Christians are encouraged to pray for an end to the divisions among the churches and the fulfillment of Jesus' prayer "that they all may be one."
Image: Christ gives the keys to the kingdom of heaven to St. Peter, from an 11th cent. German manuscript
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