“You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” (Matthew 16:18)
This incredible succession plan was conceived by Jesus Christ. He appointed and anointed Peter as the head of a Church that would continue through time on the basis of the apostolic succession.
The empowerment given by Jesus Christ to Peter and the apostles, all ordinary men, is the most comprehensive and trusting of its kind in the history of management and organization-building.
That empowerment has been judiciously used by Peter and his rightful successors, avoiding narrow-mindedness and fundamentalism in favor of common sense and benevolence.
Strength and durability
However, the apostles were resolute in their belief that the “bind-and-loose” idea should be based on Gospel truth and, therefore, error-free, because it was under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit. From this principle was born two of the most impeccable sources of strength and durability of Catholic doctrine—the papal infallibility on matters of faith and morals, and the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church.
In actualizing Christ’s empowerment to Peter, the apostles adhered to the tenets of Christ. The Church subsequently institutionalized the sacraments to incarnate the sacramental acts of Jesus Christ in the Gospel.
The structure, visibility and physicality present in the interactive performance of the sacraments humanize the accessibility of divine grace, to help humans achieve holiness as members of God’s flock.
The giving of the “Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” is Christ’s brilliant idea of perpetuating His salvific work long after his crucifixion and death on Calvary.
Salvation as the physical, intellectual, spiritual and loving act of Jesus Christ thus became, through God’s omnipotence, the same physical, intellectual, spiritual and loving act of the church in its salvific mission to bring souls to the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the most awesome proof of Jesus Christ’s loving presence on earth, even after His death on the cross, His resurrection and ascension.
This makes Catholicism a living, breathing religion, with Jesus Christ as the living, breathing Priest-Head allowing Catholics to unite body and soul with Him who is present in the Holy Eucharist.
Another amazing Petrine empowerment given to the apostles days after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ was this: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins you retain, they are retained.”
It is a clearer, more specific empowerment—a sine qua non for one’s sanctified relationship with God.
Sin is the enemy of God and the damnation of man. Only an omnipotent God in his infinite goodness and mercy can forgive sins. Through the sacrament of confession, the repentant sinner and the ministry of priesthood, the Church humanizes the forgiveness of sin in an actionable, visible and interactive manner for the repentant sinner, with the certainty of forgiveness made through the apostolic blessing given by the priest-Christ-confessor.
After the sacrament of reconciliation, one always feels the peace and happiness indicative of a saintly interior life.
The Church that Peter and the apostles built judiciously through the ages is indestructible. It is specifically guaranteed that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
The Church is now more than 2,000 years old, with more than two billion members and still growing organically and exponentially, especially in Asia and Africa. This, in spite of attacks from the enemies of the church such as barbarians, pagans, heretics, atheists and iconoclasts, and the secular politics of ancient and recent history.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
In a strict sense, “to love” is not a gesture of empowerment. It is more of a command, the greatest commandment of all, the primal instinct that seeks perfection for human existence.
Jesus Christ’s salvific mission is meant for all mankind. However, because man is gifted by God with free will, different religions were conceived by men, and the Church’s current outlook on the spirit of ecumenism respects different religious beliefs (except sinful ones), based on Jesus Christ’s call for universal holiness for all humanity.
The call to love one’s neighbor, including one’s enemy, is an ancient call. St. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, issued the call for Christ-like love or agape. St. Francis of Assisi composed the most beautiful prayer on how to love.
“Charity is patient, is kind; charity feels no envy; charity is never perverse or proud, never insolent; does not claim its rights, cannot be provoked, does not brood over an injury; takes no pleasure in wrongdoing but rejoices at the victory of truth; sustains, believes, hopes and endures to the last.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
St. Francis, meanwhile, prayed: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
Can we love the way St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi admonish us? Sure we can! All it takes is focus and awareness. The objects of our love are God, ourselves, our family, our neighbors, our fellow Filipinos, the whole human race, including our enemies.
The absence of love need not be the presence of hatred. The most pernicious reason for the absence of love is our tendency to give in to human weaknesses such as avarice, lust, envy, pride and racism.
The most impeccable way to love has been defined by St. Paul and St. Francis. A civilization based on love is the ultimate solution for world peace.