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.”
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.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
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.
There are two important ways of looking at today’s readings. The first focuses us on Peter and his faith in Jesus: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. That is such a strong focus that we must at least spend some time today thinking about this profession of faith and about our own faith. We are invited to wonder how Peter came to be able to profess such a faith. Peter had been with Jesus and watching and sharing in the life of Jesus. From the point of view of this Gospel, this participation in the life of Jesus changes Peter and allows Peter to say these strong words: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Because we have listened to other parts of the Gospels, we know that Peter still will deny Jesus at the time of the crucifixion, and this can perhaps encourage us in our faith. How often we are weak in faith, believing in Jesus as the mood comes upon us but at other times simply ignoring Him in various ways. It is not that we want to reject him. On the other hand, Jesus is clearly not yet the sole Master of our lives.
The Gospels are given to us to help us be formed in following Jesus, so that we can truly call Him Master and Lord and allow our lives to be transformed entirely so that we follow Him with all our heart, with our entire being.
The other focus today is on Peter as somehow receiving a special role in the life of the early community of the followers of Jesus. It is important for us to realize that the “Church” is not something that was established in a moment. Rather, the Church is the living presence of Christ in our world and is always striving to reflect that presence. It is not even so much that the “authorities” in the Church are good and holy, because often they are not, but that the Holy Spirit is the very soul of the Church and throughout history continues to guide the Church and to make of the Church a faithful reflection of Jesus our Lord.
The first reading today is a background for the role of Peter in the Church. His role is similar to that of Shebna, the Master of the Palace. This is the obvious comparison in today’s readings. Shebna is given the keys of the palace to show that he has complete authority over what happens in the palace. And this is true for Peter as well. He has a role of complete authority in the Church, but always subject to the King, Jesus Christ. We know that Peter denies Jesus after he receives this role in the community of the followers of Jesus.
There are all kinds of arguments against the role of Peter being handed on to another person, but our Catholic tradition affirms that this role is passed along in the Church to the successors of Peter, the Bishops of Rome. We Catholics believe that believing in Jesus Christ is an act of the Church as well as a personal act of faith. Our personal act of faith incorporates us into the group of the followers of Jesus. Just as in the early group of the followers of Jesus, so also now, there is a need for authority and for guidance of the “community of believers.”
At the level of our personal spirituality, today we are invited to reflect on our personal faith in Jesus Christ and then on our faith in the Church. Surely it is only our faith in Jesus Christ that allows us to have faith in the Church. Just as the crucifixion of Jesus scandalized Peter, so also the defects and sins that we see in the Church can scandalize us.
Let us pray today for a deeper, more profound faith in Jesus and in His living presence in the world, the Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic.