Twenty First Sunday Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Is 22:19-23; Rom 11:33-36; Mt 16:13-20
Three metaphors: a Father, a key and a tent peg help us to focus on the message of this Sunday. The readings highlight 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 fulfilment in the Gospel of today. Isaiah uses these metaphors that characterize Eliakim’s authority: a father of the people 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 needed by the kingdom of Judah. 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 Jesus would give 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 discipleship. If one understands who he is, then one certainly understands ones call to discipleship and stewardship. Jesus is standing near the pagan temples of Caesarea Philippi to make a sharp contrast between himself and the pagan false gods. In this place considered by religious Jews a red district, Jesus asks “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Then realizing 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! …You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church…” and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Standing right at the cave considered by Jews to be gate of the nether world and hearing this exchange, the disciples must have been terrified by the very thought of being able to confront these demons of evil. The important point of the gospel passage is that Jesus is asking us as individuals, as family and parish community: “who do you say that I am.” He is posing that question as we stand surrounded by the demons of this world; demons you and I are expected to confront. Jesus expects us to respond by proclaiming to the world who He is. He wants us not just to proclaim but to live out that message too in a very hostile world. We know that the Catholic Church defenses are under attack from all corners. But as Jesus assured his disciples, he assures us of today too that the defenses of the Church built upon Peter the Rock and his successors are secure. The attacks never succeed. Yes, some scared by these attacks may be leaving the Church, but the majority who trust in the promise of Christ remain as stewards and guards. The good news is that just as Peter’s confession is from above, so too our faith and proclamation is Spirit-led from above. Be not afraid. Christ is with us each moment of our life as we give our witness. So hat message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The same question posed to the disciples is still posed to us disciples and stewards of Christ today: “Who do you say that I am?” With Peter let us confess Christ as the Messiah, the Savior of the world, who founded the Church on Peter. 2) Let us pray for Peter’s successor, so that his faith in Christ may be continually sustained. 3) The good news is that just as Peter’s confession is from above, so too our faith and proclamation is Spirit-led from above. Be not afraid.
©2014 John S. Mbinda