21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)



Matthew 16: 13-20                                                              August 27, 2017

“I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.”

He was a common person, just a local big brother. As far as we know, everything started by the sea, around a beautiful beach. Many people believe that since he was given the keys of the kingdom, he is the one in charge to open or close the gates of heaven, and welcome the newly comers. Many others, including the media, and those coordinating public open-air events, ask him for no rain and sunny days during the show. But there is much more about his personality, and his job and responsibilities.

He kept a low profile, living with his wife, mother-in-law, and his brother Andrew. With his brother, he had a small fishing enterprise with another couple of brothers, John and James, in Capernaum. Some others were also in the crew: Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, and two more. Even though, he was a smart leader, he only had the basic education required at the time for a fisherman. Like any local person in the quiet neighborhood, he had heard of a rabbi, preaching and doing good deeds in the area, but never had had the opportunity to meet him in person.

The day came when both Peter and his brother Andrew were casting their nets into the sea; the rabbi passed by and gave them the order to follow him, and told them that he would make them fishers of people. They immediately left everything and followed him throughout Galilee, heard him in the synagogues, and saw how he cured people of all kinds of diseases.

The case that calls to our attention today happened in the city of Caesarea Philipii. The disciples of Jesus were together, and in the middle of a teaching about his apostles´ lack of faith, and before the first announcement of his passion, he asked them, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Nowadays surveys tell us immediately people´s opinions, even with numerous details, like interviewee´s age, gender, level of education, social-economical stratum, political party, geographical location, and many more. The disciples just reported what they had heard from the VIP´s. But since there were so many different wrong interpretations about his person and mission, Jesus wanted to hear what they thought. Peter´s answer was, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

At Peter´s faith response Jesus told him this emotional revelation, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” And changing his name by Rock, he made his eternal statement, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” And like reminding him and his companions when the boat was tossed by storms and they had just survived, Jesus promised, “The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” With the symbol of the keys, Jesus commanded Peter and us to open up new doors to be Church for others.

The giving of the keys is a symbol of trust, and authority as service, in both Isaiah and the Gospel readings. In the case of Isaiah, the king´s administrator is dismissed for his misconduct and the one who replaces him receives the keys, as the one who admits or prohibits access to the king. Peter, as the keeper of the keys, is the one who binds and looses with authority and service, but also has a teaching role.

As we hear today Jesus telling Simon, “You are Peter (…) I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven…” we recognize that the pope, as a chief shepherd is the ultimate authority in questions of faith and pastoral service of the Church, but let us ask ourselves, do we realize that there are people to whom we are sent also to be a “rock” supporting their faith with our love and testimony at times of trial and trouble.

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