Just a word… Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Just a word… Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time… August 23, 2020

Why do you suppose Jesus gives the keys to the kingdom of heaven to Peter? Keys, after all, symbolize power, control. Keys can let you in or lock you out.

Why Peter? After all, he is the one who denied Jesus three times. He fell asleep in the garden at a moment he was needed. He doubted and started to fall into the water. Why Peter? Consider the question the Lord asked the disciples as to who he was. The gospel has the disciples answering the Lord’s question with suppositions of his identity, garnered from the people. But Peter, perhaps not understanding fully what he was saying yet knowing the truth of it somehow, answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Then Jesus says something that is extraordinary and important for us… Peter, you did not say that on your own. “Blessed are you”…what you said came from God, God with you and in you. Jesus saw the power of God in Peter; that power had revealed Jesus’ identity and mission, to Peter. And in saying those words to Peter, Jesus recognizes the new identity and the mission of Peter.

Are we so different from Peter? Have we not denied Jesus many times in our lives? And yet, what is true for Peter is true for each of us who believes. We too are changed by God’s Spirit within us. We too are invited to exercise Christ’s power. We too are called to a new identity and mission. We too have been given the keys to open eyes, minds and hearts and to shut out darkness, death and all that leads to it. We too have the power to decry all that divides us, to keep the gates of heaven open. These keys and gates are not physical, but are dependent on our developing the eyes to see and the ears to hear what Peter did, in participating in the alignment of heaven and earth, by living as Jesus did.

There is more here than just the handing of keys to Peter and appointing him as the authority, important as that is. Peter, after all, was a flawed human being (aren’t we all?). This gospel is a declaration of God’s intent and desire to use the life of every believer to build the kingdom, no matter how flawed, how simple or how unimportant we may think of ourselves as building material. Jesus is telling us that true power comes not with a set of keys, but with the desire to serve in the unfolding of the reign of God, whoever we are, whatever our strengths or weaknesses, all we are can be used by the Lord to further the kingdom.

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