“Simon Peter answered: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”
In this sentence, quoted from our gospel this weekend, Peter expresses the full Christian understanding of the nature of Jesus. It is important that it is Peter who states it, on behalf of the other apostles, because Peter will then be declared by Jesus to be “the Rock on which I will build my church.” Jesus thereby declares what will be the fundamental role of every successor of Peter, whom we call the Pope, until the end of time. We don’t necessarily look for great revelations from our popes, or great teachings, not even that they be models of extreme holiness. But what we require them to be is firm upholders of the Church’s belief that Jesus is indeed “the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.
So Peter is not commended for his intelligence or acute perception but, rather, his attention to God the Father. This indicates that Peter sought the guidance of God in prayer, the most important quality which Jesus wanted in the person to whom he would entrust the leadership of his church. A short while later, however, (Matthew 16:22), Peter will take Jesus aside and try to convince him that suffering and death are not necessary to complete his mission. Jesus knows otherwise and calls Peter a “satan” or adversary. Peter was capable of discerning the will of God in prayer, but had plenty of times when he neglected to pray and listened more to human reasoning. Which side of Peter do we most often show in our own lives?