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.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!—these words from today’s second reading can serve as the subject of today’s readings. One of the most important aspects of our Christian faith is that it comes out of the Jewish faith and remains related to that faith forever. We cannot understand our faith until we begin to understand the faith of our Jewish ancestors. It is simply impossible.
So often we Christians don’t understand our faith. There should be no surprise that we do not understand it fully, but every day we should be spending some time letting our faith deepen, allowing our intellect to understand more of our faith and allowing our emotion and reason to be converted to the Lord.
The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, uses terminology that Jesus uses in today’s Gospel from Saint Matthew. The first thing to note in both readings is that God is the one who gives authority to those whom He chooses. So often we think of religious authority in the same way as we think of secular, civil authority: might makes right, the most unscrupulous person gets most of the power or those who can pay off others with money and other benefits. That is a pretty dismal view of secular, civil authority, but it does not take too much research to see that in general, it is true.
Religious authority, according to the Gospel, is about forgiveness of sins and about service to others. The fact is, of course, that religious authority is also just as easily corrupted as secular, civil authority.
We Catholics are not, however, people who live only by the Spirit. The Church is an incarnate presence of the Lord Jesus, founded by Him and sustained by His Holy Spirit. Because it is incarnate, even the authority of the keys has at times been corrupted by sin. Still there is a promise of infallibility to the Church and to the person of the Pope. Today’s Gospel speaks directly to these powers, using more gentle terms. There can be no doubt, however, that Jesus gives special authority to Peter. We also believe that such power is given to Peter’s successors.
Only an authentic faith shows us the truth of these assertions. Only a deep belief in the transmission of authority and office in the Church convinces us that this is so. The early Christians believed this, without a doubt, even though they may have squabbled about how it was lived and expressed.
Today’s Scriptures invite us once again to renew our faith in the Lord Jesus, in the establishment of one Church, in the authority of Peter expressed in the Pope and in God’s divine presence within the humanity of the Church institution. May our own understanding and acceptance grow.