Not as a prize for saying the correct answer, but as an affirmation and ordination, Peter is called to be the”Foundation” person among the “called”. The word we use for “church”, which is taken from the Greek, means “those who gather together because they have heard something which calls them together”. Peter is named to be the chief caller. In a sense he is called to be a caller. He became the first person of the Church and so defines what the Church is.
It is attractive to write and talk about the power of the “keys” and the power to loose and bind. It is tempting to use this text as a proof for the divine power given to the Pope as the successor of Peter. These are all good things about which to write, but the central picture or image is of the meaning and the mission of community, or the Church. Do we know who we are? Do we like who we are? Do we know what we are meant to be doing? If we are not sure, then we need texts to prove and power to defend ourselves. Peter and Paul did not seem to need defense or proofs, but faith in the events of their active lives.
Peter was called from his fishing boat and Paul from his oppressing control tower of power. Neither of them is told what exactly they were to do. Their personal encounters with Jesus and subsequent changes because of that relationship, formed them to do what seemed, well, that which was called to do. If we individually learn and accept who we are, we will know what to do. These two were saved from themselves to be for others. Saved from is to be saved for.
In a sense this celebration is ours as well. Peter and Paul and you and I are called from so we can be for the moments of preaching and revealing what Church is. I am Paul/Church when I encourage, instruct, reconcile, bless, correct, serve and ultimately lay down my life for believing. I am Peter/Church when I confront, challenge, form community, sacramentalize important moments within community, preach a faith-doing-justice, and be willing to lay my life down for my believing. Paul and Peter did these and they were not just Church-going, but Church-going-out persons. We are who we say we are by our doing what our faith calls us to do. The angel freed Peter and then left him alone in a dark alley, but Peter knew what to do. Paul was blinded but when he recovered his sight, he did not wait around for further instructions or reach for an Owner’s Manual.
By Larry Gillick