Keys to the Kingdom

The following is a summary of Deacon Dan’s homily for August 21, 2011 – the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Today, we hear similar stories in our First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah and our Gospel reading from Matthew. They are stories about authority and responsibility. Both stories use keys as that symbol of authority and responsibility.

Remember when you received your first house key as a kid? For me, it was a big deal. It was an outward sign that my mom and dad trusted me to take on additional responsibilities. In the Gospel, Jesus promises Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Why does Jesus give this authority and responsibility to Peter? Not because Peter “fully understands” or is “perfect” Let us remember …

  • It is Peter who will later deny knowing Christ three times during Jesus’ hour of need.
  • It is Peter who will question his own faith and sink into the sea when Jesus calls him to walk toward him on the water.

Peter doesn’t fully understand what God has planned for our salvation (none of us ever will), but he is open to what God reveals to him  … that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This story from Matthew’s Gospel is a little different than what we see in parallel accounts from Mark and Luke. Matthew adds Jesus’ words: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Why does Matthew include these words? To emphasize that it is God that has revealed this to Peter, not man. To demonstrate how Peter’s insight relates to how the Church (and its people) will be formed, will grow, and will endure (by allowing God, through the Holy Spirit, to guide the Church).

It would be good for us to do the same in our lives. The truth is, Peter and the other Apostles could never have figured out on their own how to grow the Church founded by Christ. They needed to rely on the wisdom of God – just as we do today.

That’s what we hear in our Second Reading today – of the beauty, and generosity, and wisdom of God That’s the message I want us to focus on this week.

I encourage you to take some time this week and sit with the Second Reading (from Letter of St. Paul to Romans). Especially that part …

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!”

And then I encourage you to reflect on how God has revealed himself … and his plan for you … in your life.

To be able to experience God in our life we have to be willing to open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts. Each of us is going to experience God in different ways (in nature, in prayer, in Eucharist, in community or with family, in solitude, etc.). Some of us need visual or auditory aids to help experience God. Some of us simply need silence. Whatever the method, we need to take some time to be open to God in our lives and to experience him in the ways that best touch our hearts, minds, and souls.

A few things you might consider today, here at Mass, to get started:

  • During the Eucharistic Prayer – close your eyes and visualize the Last Supper.
  • At the Sign of Peace – look into the eyes and face of the person you greet and look to see God in them.
  • After communion – reflect on what you have received … and how you will carry that forward this week. As David Kauffman writes, paraphrasing the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: “See what you are, become what you eat … the Body of Christ.”
  • If you do not receive communion – prayerfully reflect on the grace, the love and the acceptance that surrounds you in this community. All are welcome in this place.

Jesus used a simple person, like Peter, to be the foundation of his Church. Jesus uses simple people, like you and me, to continue to build his Church. To accomplish our mission, we need to reflect on how God reveals himself to us in our lives. So, take some time this week to experience “the depth of the riches … and wisdom … and knowledge of God.”

Be at peace and know that you are loved!

Copyright © Daniel R. Donnelly. All Rights Reserved.

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