21st Sunday, O T Year A – 17
Is.22:19-23/ Rom.11:33-36/ Matt.16:13-20
We might call this Sunday “Power Sunday,” because the main theme is the handing over of the “Keys” which open and shut, representing authority in the Church and in the Kingdom.
The keys also symbolize the beginning of a new era, the refreshing presence of the Holy Spirit guiding the destiny of every human being on the earth.
To give keys means “to bestow authority”. The apostles are given authority to become the stewards of the kingdom of heaven upon the earth “the authority to lead, to instruct, to teach, to heal, to exorcise and to guide the people to God.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter and the apostles exercised their authority “the doors were opened to three thousand people, later to the gentiles.
The metaphor of ‘binding and loosing.’ This image is used by the Scribes, Rabbis and the teachers of the Law to assert their legislative authority in interpreting the Law.
It also has its significance with regard to doctrinal and judicial decisions; for example, in permitting certain things to do or forbidding them. It also suggests pardoning a sinner and if he does not listen to the elders, considering him as an outsider or foreigner.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to know him personally and to serve him and love him as Lord, and he wants from each one of us our total, single-hearted response. So, the question is: Who is God for you? This question is one way of exploring the individual experiences of God.
The answers may vary. Some would biblically describe God as their Savior, Father, Creator, or Judge, while others give “personal” experiences which suggest intimacy, like, Brother, Friend, or Counselor.
Faith and knowledge are intimately related. No person who professes his belief in Christ, at the same time, would say that he does not know Christ. If we believe in Him, we must also have known Him.
St. John equates believing with knowing. In his writings, we can find the phrase, “I have come to know and believe….” Thus, faith is about knowing God; faith is knowledge of God.
The gospel passage leads us to this relationship. Believing in Jesus constitutes knowledge about Him. Let us turn to the two important questions of Jesus. The first is, “Who do people say that I am?” and the second, “Who do you say that I am?”
To the first question, the disciples responded: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” People, in other words, perceived Christ as a prophet.
By asking the disciples what do people perceive about Him, Jesus suggests that other people can be a true source of our knowledge of God. In fact, this is our experience. When we were kids, the sources of our knowledge about God were our parents, catechists, and teachers.
All of them are our teachers of the faith. What they say or teach about God has been instrumental in the formation of our fledging faith. However, they are only one of the sources. What they say may not be sufficient.
In fact, when Jesus heard from his disciples the people’s perception about Him, he did not even say a word of approval or confirmation. Certainly, there is truth in what people said about Him, but not satisfactory.
Jesus must have seen the truth about it, but he knows that He is greater than John, Elijah, Jeremiah, and other prophets. He is more than the prophets! This could be the reason why He asked the second question: “But who do you say that I am?”
It could be understandable that people may have insufficient view about Jesus because they have not journeyed with Him. But the disciples have. So, Jesus must have expected a more sufficient and deeper answer from them because of their “being with” Him.
True enough, Peter was able to give a satisfactory answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And here, Jesus has a different reaction. He agreed to it, he confirmed it, and he was satisfied by it.
As we grow in age, we are also expected to grow in faith, and more specifically, in the knowledge of God. But some of us are inclined to be satisfied with what we hear about God from other people.
I mean, we seem to be already satisfied with the knowledge we received from our parents or catechists. Seldom we spend time in communing ourselves with God in order to have a deeper knowledge of Him.
The second question of Jesus will always confront us. From time to time, we need to ask ourselves, “Who is God for me?” or “Who is Christ for me?” The answer to this question cannot be simply taken from what people say or teach to us.
Peter was able to have the sufficient answer because of the moments he had been with Christ. The time he spent with Christ was an opportunity for knowing Him more deeply. In the same way, we can only have a good answer to this question if we also spend more time with God.
Prayer is the key to this knowledge. Reading the Bible regularly is also a key to this knowledge. Thus, growing in the knowledge of God depends on the time we spend for and with Him. The grace of God the Father and the Spirit work in these moments.
To attain knowledge about God from other people is already good. But it is better that we complement it with our own experience of God which can be had through persistent prayers and personal studies or reading of the Word of God.
Jesus is not merely the founder of a new religion, or a revolutionary Jewish reformer, or one of the great teachers. For Christians, he is the Son of God and our personal Savior. This means that we have to see Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the Savior, and the Redeemer.
He is our beloved friend, closer to us than our dear ones and a living experience, who walks with us, loves us, forges us, helps us and transforms our lives and outlook. We have to give all areas of our lives to him.