(21st Ordinary Sunday: Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20)
As usual, there is a clear connection between the first reading and the Gospel. It lies in the symbolism of keys. Eliakim will be given Shebna’s keys; Jesus entrusts the keys to the kingdom of heaven to Peter.
At first glance this might appear to be a prize which Peter won by coming up with the correct answer to the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is the Father who has revealed this to him.
As the same question is raised from generation to generation, we need to answer it also for ourselves. Peter’s response is not self-evident. What is one to do in circumstances where one feels surrounded by people who make a mockery of our religion? Perhaps this is part of what St. Paul calls God’s “inscrutable judgments and unsearchable ways.” But what is the key to maintaining our peace of soul?
At La Salette, Our Lady spoke about just such a situation. The faithful few were becoming fewer and fewer, in an aggressively anticlerical world. The key Mary offered is the one she wore around her neck: the image of her crucified Son.
She emphasized the importance of our relationship to Jesus, and to the cross on which he died for us. Far from reviling his name, we are called to proclaim in word and action, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That means living as faithful and, yes, happy disciples.
Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” While a fortress mentality is not necessarily to be encouraged, this promise is a source of comfort.
There is another encouragement in today’s Psalm: “The Lord is exalted, yet the lowly he sees.” As with Maximin and his father on their way home from the field of Coin, his watchful eye is upon us.
With Mary we can pray without ceasing. We can make ours the words of the psalm response: “Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.” Even if nothing changes, we can be what Isaiah calls “a peg in a sure spot,” unshaken in our faith.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.