21st Sun. in Ord. Time Yr A 8-27-23 Dcn. Bill Kenney

Become a key bearer for Christ

21st Sun Ord. Time Yr A           Is 22:19-23     Mt 16:13-20  b.k.

     When I was a kid, my best friend and I had a short chapter in our childhood whereby we collected keys. Any old key would do. We’d find them in junk around the garage and other places; of course, we would ask before adding them to our collection. We gathered quite a variety of keys: long & short ones, different shapes and colors. The coolest ones were “skeleton keys”. They were unique, but just the name “skeleton” made them special.

     As special as any of the keys were in our collection, they had no value if they did not serve to lock or unlock things like doors, cabinets, pad locks, and others. Keys have great value if you misplace one or if you lock your keys in the car and have to make your own “key” out of a wire coat hanger. That should have been one of the keys in our collection. This is the material and practical case for keys. Keys can also be symbolic and representative of our faith, authority, and obedience.

     Our first reading from Isaiah is a type and foreshadowing of the Gospel reading from Matthew. In Isaiah, Eliakim, a righteous servant of God, is given the symbolic keys to the Kingdom of David, much like the keys of the city are presented to a prominent member of society in recognition for their merit or good deeds. Eliakim is given the authority and responsibility to be the father of Jerusalem and the house of Judah.  He is a faithful key bearer, a sure foundation, and obedient leader of God’s people.

     Last week’s Gospel reading was about the Canaanite woman whose great faith and persistence was rewarded with her daughter’s exorcism. Today’s Gospel reading is also an account of great faith and reward. Jesus takes a poll and asks his disciples, "Who do people (that is, the general public) say that the Son of Man is?". He gets a variety of unacceptable answers. He asks the same of his disciples. Simon son of Jonah answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. By his proven faithfulness inspired by God the Father, Jesus says he will be given the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus clearly wanted his disciples to know that he was much more than he seemed to the general population. Simon’s name is changed to Peter, the Rock, an immovable foundation upon which Christ will build his Church. He eventually becomes the first Pope of the Catholic Church.

     Jesus’ words are in a future tense. Certainly Peter had a lot of formation to undergo throughout the Gospel accounts. He had misunderstandings of the redeeming suffering and passion of Jesus; doubts in re-casting nets to catch fish or when he sank while walking on water; and a three-time denial of even knowing Jesus at his Passion. Jesus saw through his weakness and foreknew the faithfulness, authority, and love Peter would eventually demonstrate and exact after Pentecost as found in the Acts of the Apostles. He becomes, you might say, the ultimate key bearer.

          In keeping with Eliakim and St. Peter, we too are called to be key bearers for Christ. To strive to overcome our weaknesses and eventually grow as witnesses and leaders of our faith to family, friends, and needy others. By our persistent faith and love for Christ, we too hold the keys for our brothers’ and sisters’ salvation- to open the doors of hope and love while locking the doors of evil and darkness. We unlock and open doors of support and reassurance by repeatedly confessing our great love for our children- to their faces- giving them a zeal for life. We too are called to be Peter, a rock of our faith for which all people may find, believe, and come to the table of heaven- on- earth at the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass.

     We are the Church that Christ built. Each of us, through our baptism are priest, prophet, and king. St. John Vianney, speaking for ordained priests, says what also applies to all clergy and laity:

“The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods”.

      As with Eliakim and St. Peter, we are entrusted with a key given us by the Lord.  We hold the key to open the door to answer Christ’s knocking. We have a great responsibility to reliably and faithfully open our Church with the love of Christ that we unlock within each other. May we collect and hold dearly the keys to the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Christ. May we find value in our service vocations as worthy key bearers, for the greater glory of God.