When you hear the words: “Peter, do you love me?” [John 21:15] imagine you are in front of a mirror and looking at yourself.
Peter, surely, was a symbol of the Church. Therefore the Lord in asking Peter is asking us too.
To show that Peter was a symbol of the Church, remember the passage in the Gospel, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. [Matt. 16:18]
Has only one man received those keys? Christ himself explains what they are for: “Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” [Matt. 18:18] If these words had been said only to Peter, now that he is dead who would ever be able to bind or loose?
I make bold to say that all of us have received the keys. We bind and loose. And you also bind and loose.
Whoever is bound is separated from your community; he is bound by you. When he is reconciled, however, he is loosed, thanks to you because you are praying for him.
Augustine, Serm. Morin 16 (Miscellanea Agostiniana)
My travel schedule remains quite hectic, so once again this will be a short post. I found this bit of wisdom in Thomas Spidlik’s wonderful little book, Drinking from the Hidden Fountain.
I think Augustine points out several things that matter a great deal for our spiritual lives. As we read Scripture, we should read it as if Jesus were speaking to us personally. Jesus wasn’t only explaining to the a first century audience about the kingdom of heaven: He was speaking to you and to me.
I think too often we think of the keys to the kingdom as something that Jesus left as an inheritance to Peter, or to the Twelve, and perhaps we might even go so far as to think our clergy have inherited it. Augustine suggests, and I believe, that those keys are our inheritance, yours and mine. So, when I withhold forgiveness from my brother or sister, I hold that sin bound. (I think one could seriously question exactly who is bound up when forgiveness is withheld, but perhaps we’ll talk about that another time.) On the other hand, each of us have the power to loose our brothers and sisters.
We can loose them by forgiving them; we can loose them from the burdens they carry; we can loose them by righting an old wrong or through our acts of charity and kindness. Jesus left us these keys, left them to you and to me. So, I wonder, what locks will we open today?
God watch over thee and me,
James R. Dennis, O.P.
© 2012 James R. Dennis