encounter with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has given me a deep appreciation of the
medical discoveries and advancements achieved throughout history.
those involved in my chemotherapy assured me, "This isn't your parents'
chemo. Treatment has changed drastically in just the last ten years."
It doesn't take
long for medical discoveries to be integrated into medical practice.
Clinging to past
But, when I look
at my own field of expertise -- Scripture -- I'm embarrassed to admit that
we, as a Church, more frequently employ my great-grandparents' explanation of
Sunday's well-known Gospel (Matthew 16:13-20) than even that of my parents'.
ignore the discoveries of the Gospel redaction critics that took place during
the mid-195Os, when Dr. Jonas Salk's polio
vaccination started to eliminate that dreaded disease. We also seem to forget
Pontifical Biblical Commission's 1964 statement on the historicity of
Gospels, issued about the same time cholesterol was discovered.
advances showed us that Gospels aren't "Jesus biographies," written
by eye-witnesses of the events they narrate. Rather, they're theological
documents, composed by the evangelists to help their communities understand
the implications of imitating the dying/rising Jesus, who was alive in their
To say, for
instance, that the Gospel shows Jesus setting up the papacy and the
hierarchical structure of the Church is to ignore some of the most basic
discoveries and insights of biblical scholarship achieved over the last
1. Matthew wrote
not for us Gentile/Christians, but for a Jewish/Christian community, who
faithfully attended synagogue every Sabbath, followed all 613 Laws of Moses,
and would have understood both Jesus' command "to bind and loose,"
and His comment about the "keys of the kingdom" in the context of
Jewish rabbinical practice, not against our background of confession or
Sunday's first reading (Isaiah 22:19-23) referring to "the key of the
House of David" is taken from Hebrew Scriptures.
2. If the Gospel
contains an essential element of Church structure, why isn't it in every
Gospel -- as the Eucharist is? Instead, it is found only in Matthew.
3. The powers
Jesus bestowed on Peter in chapter 16 were bestowed on the entire community later in the Gospel.
Perhaps a better
approach to Sunday's Gospel would be to emphasize what Jesus emphasizes:
Peter's faith that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living
God." That forms the foundation and rock of the Christian community.
It's faith in a
person, not a structure, that we should deepen every
Paul says it
beautifully (Romans 11:33-36): "For from Him and through Him and for Him
are all things. To Him be glory forever!"
oncologist started my treatment by applying leeches to my infected lymph
nodes, I would have asked for a second opinion.