The Keys of the Kingdom: The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Central idea: The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Doctrine: The Office of the Pope. Practical application: Cooperating with the Pope and one’s Bishop.

Lectionary 121.

Central Idea: The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven

Reading 1 Is 22:19-23

Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace:
“I will thrust you from your office
and pull you down from your station.
On that day I will summon my servant
Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe,
and gird him with your sash,
and give over to him your authority.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and to the house of Judah.
I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut
when he shuts, no one shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot,
to be a place of honor for his family.”

  • The master of the palace was an office of stewardship with both the authority and responsibility to be “a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.”
  • Because of his infidelity, the office of Shebna would taken away and given to Eliakim.
  • The complete scope of the master of the palace’s authority was symbolized by the “key of the House of David.” What he said and did could not be gainsaid by anyone, except the king himself.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8

R. Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple.

I will give thanks to your name,
because of your kindness and your truth:
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.

The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees,
and the proud he knows from afar.
Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.

  • God, who is exalted, does not favor the proud, who exalt themselves, but the lowly.
  • Divine Revelation is a catechesis on why this is so.
    • The lowly one, who knows his need, looks to God, so God sees him. As Our Lord taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:3).
    • The proud one does not look to God, so God only sees him from afar.
    • The lowly are like God: Christ confesses that he is meek and humble of heart (Mt. 11:29).
  • The prayer, “forsake not the work of you hands” is one every Christian can pray, for we are the work of His hands.
  • It is also a prayer of the Church. Christ has already declared that he will never forsake it, since he is building it on the Rock of Peter and “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Reading 2 Rom 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given the Lord anything
that he may be repaid?
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen.

  • It is foolish to try to instruct God, especially since our understanding is so flawed. It is much better to be instructed by God, provided the instruction is authentic.
  • When we correctly see what God decides to do and how he goes about acting, we have to confess “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” even while we cannot see all the reasons why.
    • God permits human beings to do real good and real evil.
    • Christ has saved and redeemed us through his sufferings caused by man’s sins.
    • Christ has founded a Church with the hierarchical structure he has given it.
  • We can say these decisions are immensely good but why God decided to act in these ways remain mysteries.

Gospel Mt 16:13-20

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“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.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

  • Enlightened by the Father, Peter testifies to Jesus’ mission and identity: Jesus is the Messiah or anointed savior and the Son of God. So, in turn, Jesus reveals Peter’s mission: Peter is the rock or foundation of Christ’s Church with full authority to lead it on Christ’s behalf.
  • According to Our Lord, Peter’s confession that Jesus is “The Christ, the Son of the living God” is not the conclusion to a chain of human reasoning but “revealed . . . by my heavenly Father.”
  • Our Lord changes Simon’s name to “Peter,” which means “rock,” on which Christ will build his Church.
  • Nothing will prevail against his Church. Nothing will conquer it, not even death—“the gates of the netherworld.” In fact, death will be overcome by the Church: when the Church assails the gates of the netherworld, she will break them down.
  • Just as God gives Eliakim complete authority over Jerusalem and Judah with the power of the key of the House of David to open and shut, Christ gives Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven to bind and loose.
  • Peter has complete stewardship over Christ’s church in Christ’s absence, so what Peter decides on earth will be ratified in heaven.
  • So we see in this passage of the Gospel three important realities: (1) Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one who is to redeem Israel and the rest of the world; (2) he founded a Church to carry on his saving work; and (3) the Church has a structure with Peter at its head.

Doctrine: The Office of Pope

  • Christ put Peter first among the Twelve as the rock on whom he would build his Church. “Christ, the ‘living stone’ (1 Pet 2:4), thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.” (CCC 552)
  • “The ‘power of the keys’ designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church” (CCC 553). “The power to ‘bind and loose’ connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church” (CCC 553).
  • “Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom” (CCC 553).
  • The Pope stands in the place of Peter for the whole Church, and the various bishops stand in the place of the Apostles. Thus, each of the lay faithful has two shepherds to look to: the shepherd of the universal Church and the shepherd of his diocese.

Practical Application: Cooperating with the Pope and one’s Bishop

  • Since the Pope and our bishop are our religious leaders, it is good for us to be good followers.
  • It is not possible for us to follow either of these men if we don’t know where they want to lead us. How can we know what they want?
    • Hopefully, our parish priest will tell us things in the Sunday homily and at other times.
    • Then there is the media. We have to be good discerners of media, since so much is greatly distorted. It is necessary to find media outlets you trust. One place for your bishop is the diocesan website and the diocesan Catholic newspaper.
    • We can also, according to our capacity, read what the Pope and our bishop write. The pope’s encyclical, audiences, homilies, and other addresses can be read on the Vatican website here.
  • We can do the same with our diocesan bishop.
    • My own bishop organized the first diocesan synod here in fifty years in order to implement a model of stewardship and discipleship so our diocese can grow rather than decline. What is your bishop thinking and asking?
    • Again, according to our ability, we can engage in the kind of work he wants done.
  • Finally, we should pray daily for both the Pope and our bishop, for their well-being and for what they want done to be faithfully carried out.

The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism points and themes for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time:

  • CCC 551-553: the Keys of the Kingdom
  • CCC 880-887: foundations of unity: the college of bishops with its head, the successor of Peter






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