21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Is 22:15,19-23; Rm 11:33-36; Mat 16:13-20
A prophecy pointing to the choice of Peter; the metaphors of a father, a key and a tent peg help us to capture the message of the readings this Sunday. The readings focus on the person of Jesus Christ prefigured in the account of Eliakim in the first reading. Isaiah’s prophecy in this passage presents a ritual giving of power to Eliakim that uses symbols that point to what we have in the Gospel of today. Isaiah uses three metaphors that characterize Eliakim’s authority: a father of the people and who is given jurisdiction over the people of the Southern kingdom; a key to the household which symbolize full authority to control who comes in and goes out; and a tent peg that holds the structure in place and thus guarantees stability of the household. That prophecy seems to promise a person who would provide the order and stability the kingdom of Judah must have needed. Eliakim is chosen because of his integrity. He is a person who understands his role of service in the royal palace, for he is not the king. Keys are given to Eliakim prefiguring the keys that would be given to Peter in the Gospel.
In the Gospel passage, Jesus focuses our attention on the relation between our understanding of who he is, and our understanding of our discipleship. If one understands who he is, then one certainly understands ones call to follow him. Jesus leads his disciples to this point gradually. First he asks them the easier question. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Then realising how easy it is for the disciples to say what others say about him, Jesus changes the question and makes it much more personal. “But you, who do you say that I am?” It is Peter who responds first. For a moment there is a very profound dialogue between the two. Then Simon Peter spoke up, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Jesus replied, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. So now I say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church…”. This exchange is not just a simple courtesy. It has two profound affirmations which touch on the faith of who Christ is for each one of us, and our own personal confession of that faith like Peter. Jesus recognizes the genuine confession of faith in Peter as a deep sign of love and stability. Peter is the rock on which he would build his Church, and to whom he would give the keys of the Kingdom. The primacy of Peter among the Apostles is thus linked to his confession of faith. Through divine revelation Peter had reached a certain depth of faith. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Today let us rejoice that Jesus chose Peter as the rock on whom he founded his Church despite Peter's human weakness. The reason for choosing Peter, a simple fisherman, lies in the mystery of God's wisdom. God in his Spirit inspires Peter to understand and confess Christ. Just as Peter’s confession is from above, so too his new ministry embraces present and future generations; the local and the universal. God in Christ entrusts the authority and leadership of the Church to Peter and his successors, the Bishop of Rome and all the Bishops in communion with him down to the present day. What message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The same question posed to the disciples is still posed to us followers of Christ today: “Who do you say that I am?” With Peter let us confess Christ as the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, who founded the Church on Peter. 2) Let us pray for Peter’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI, so that his faith in Christ may be continually sustained. 3) Let us pray for ourselves that like Peter and the disciples we may continually understand our call in Baptism to serve the Lord through the Church leadership Jesus founded on Peter.
©2011 John S. Mbinda