This is a deliberate revolt against a more traditional “great man” view of history, which focuses on a series of important leaders and the decisions they make.
There is truth in both schools of thought, but there is to history than what either propose.
Today’s Gospel (Matthew 16:13-19) reminds us of two other critical factors that affect human history.
One is the most important and powerful: the action of God – in the unfolding of His plan of Creation, in the omnipotent subtlety of His continued providence, and in the direct action of His revelation and salvation (most perfectly in the person, life, words, and deeds of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ).
The other critical factor is the human individual: not just a “great man” or a billionth of humanity, but the human individual.
One person can change history: even someone lowly-born, poorly-situated, and totally forgettable.
Peter, an undistinguished fisherman from a provincial backwater, would work hard and accomplish amazing things by God’s grace, but his life would touch an infinitesimal percentage of the other people who lived in the world in his time and his death would immediately cause barely a ripple.
But upon this Rock, Christ built His Church.
From the simple, bold statement of Peter in today’s Gospel, the faith of billions would flower.
Weak, undistinguished, and overlooked as you and I may be, may we always seek the grace of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so that we may be faithful and be effective instruments of the grace, love, and truth of God.