Gospel Reflections

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

Matthew 16:13-20

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Margaret Foley

Published: August 24, 2014

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

Only last Sunday we heard the words of Jesus - woman, great is your faith! In today’s Gospel we hear Peter answering Jesus’ question with a leap of faith - you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

From the beginning of the Church, faith is the bedrock of our Christian commitment. In Baptism we received the gifts of faith, hope and love. We also become aware of the extent of God’s faithful love for us - to which Psalm 137 gives voice in a hymn of thanksgiving …I thank you for your faithfulness and love…..

We reach out to God through the gift of faith and God reaches out to us. This is the context in which we grow in prayer. Taking time in our lives to pray is as necessary as the air we breathe and the water we drink. Without air and water we die. Exercise in prayer develops our openness to love. As the poet W. H. Auden writes - We must love one another, or die. We pray through saying prayers for our loved ones, our friends, the world in need, in all the moments of life. We also pray in the quiet experience of the power of silence, quiet reflective moments and silent contemplation holding the hand of the God within.

In the multi-cultural societies in which many of us live, we often recognise, with respect, the quest for this same God in the lives of neighbours and friends - our paths towards God bring communion not distrust.

When Jesus heard Peter’s answer to his question -W ho do you say I am? - he established Peter in a new relationship with the disciples, and eventually with his Church. On this Rock I will build my Church..I will give you the Keys of the Kingdom of heaven. Earlier in the reading from Isaiah we hear that Eliakim was given the keys of the house of David and authority in the royal palace.

Throughout history to the present day to have the key of the house is a recognition of authority. When we were young in my family, on our 21st birthdays, our cards of congratulations had pictures of huge keys on the front. It was a rite of passage – a key to the front door! -- acknowledgment of a new adult place in the family.

The authority a Pope holds stems from this gift of the keys to Peter, the rock. Keys can open or close. It requires integrity and discernment to use the power of keys in the context of each new century. Sometimes the Church is perceived as closing doors more than opening. Those in authority need our prayer to sustain them in discernment and choice faced with the moral and ethical challenges of the vast surge in technology in the 21st century.

And then suddenly we have a new Pope, Pope Francis, and the whole world loves him! Why? Because in a kindly, joyful way he begins to open doors (we thought for ever closed) and calls the world to love each other. We feel called to “do” rather than “don’t”. This brings to mind the lines of a great American poet, E. E. Cummings --

you shall above all things be glad and young. -------
I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.

Maybe you are in an important career that holds keys to open doors to free people or imprison them. Politicians, educators, religious leaders, religious congregations, lawyers, bankers, health experts……the list goes on. So many with such great responsibility.

And conversely how many do we meet who do not want the door to freedom opened?

Each of us in our own lives carries the keys of the kingdom. Together we are Church. We choose to develop openness to one another as we grow from youth to adulthood. Or, as we grow older we close the doors to love, to friendship, to trusting, for fear of being hurt or wounded again. We close the door on life until sadly we are locked in on ourselves. The keys are still in our hands! God’s faithfulness, God’s never ending love for us will give us the courage to turn them.

Father, help us to seek the values
that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world.
(Opening Prayer)


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