21st Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle A-2017

FIRST READING            Isaiah 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.”

SECOND READING        Romans 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.

GOSPEL       Matthew 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.

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

“Who do you say that I am?”  –This is a question not only for the early followers of Jesus bur for each of us every day of our life.  “Who do you say that I am?”

So many today, even Christians, think of Jesus as a good man and a good moral teacher, but do not consider Him to be God and Lord.  For many, there is a real lack of knowledge about what the Scriptures say of Jesus.  For the early followers of Jesus, it was clear that if they believed in Jesus, they could only believe in Him as God and Lord.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Scriptures, the fulfillment of the prophecies of a Messiah, of an Anointed One, of the Savior who was to come.

If we want to know who Jesus is, we must begin to know the Scriptures.  The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah.  It tells about Shebna, who is taken out of the office of being in charge of the household of King Hezekiah of Judah—because of his pride.  Eliakim is put in his place.  The important part of this story is that the one in charge of the household had the keys to everything and was able to make decisions about who could enter and who could leave, what door is opened and what door is closed.  This is clearly an important role under the king.  If we look at this in terms of the Gospel, then Jesus appoints Peter in charge of the Kingdom of Heaven—in charge of the Church in this life.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Romans.  We hear this:  “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”  Today so many people find it difficult to believe that there is a God and that a God would really be interested in our lives.  This is because far too often God is seen simply an a being like ourselves.  Western countries in particular have a difficult time in accepting that there is a God and that God is all powerful, all wise, all holy, all knowing, etc.  Instead the tendency is reduce God down to a super human and then dismiss God as not really existing.

The Catholic Christian concept of God speaks to the reality of a God who is more than anything that we can imagine, more powerful, capable of all things, loving beyond any love we can imagine, and so on.  Jesus comes in our flesh but is truly God.  So with the Letter to the Romans, we also should be able to repeat in awe:  “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”

This is a God who established a Church so that people can come to know the reality of God and God’s love and mercy.  This is a God whose only Son comes to us in love as a Savior.  This is a God who is not afraid to put his life in our hands and to give Himself to us in a flawed and deeply human Church which is at the same time infallible and filled with divinity.  May this Sunday draw us deeper into these divine mysteries.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip