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Homilies/Reflections

IF YOU PROFESS IT, LIVE IT. A reflection for the 21st Sunday of the Ordinary Time, Year A.
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sat, 22 Aug 2020

Readings: Is 22:19-23; Rm 11:33-36; Mt 16:13-20.

   In the first reading of today, it is not Isaiah but God who entrusts Eliakim with the keys of David's household. Isaiah mediates the divine oracle, and underlines Israel's classical prophetic tradition of speaking in the name of only one God: "Thus says the Lord." Likewise, in today's Gospel, Jesus entrusts to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus underscores a revelation beyond prophecy. He does not say, "I am going to pray to God for you, Peter! He  says: "I will give you." We have Paul's testimony that God's invitation to us is deeply personal, and God's choice of us to commit to his plan is a wise and blessed one. God sees and knows all.

    We need not go far in today's readings to notice how much better we will be if we genuinely have God's approval for our inclinations. How rewarding, graceful, and peaceful, our hearts can be, when God's care mines through our little plans. The fault of the officer dismissed in our first reading is not mentioned. Yet we recall that this was Hezekiah's reign (715-686 BC), for Shebna served him as "master of the palace." It was also a fearful and uncertain time with many attempts by foreign kings (like Sennacherib) to seige the Jewish kingdom. Through Isaiah, God demanded total trust and reliance on God's power to protect the people. But Courtiers like Shebna preferred politics, double-talk, and reliance treaties with foreign allies. Their private interests and shallow trust undermined the king and nation. Shebna's reprehensible behaviors also cast slurs upon God's glory.

  "I remove you," or "I dismiss you" may not be the voice or words that we hear today. Yet, today's Gospel stands firm in reminding us to be on our guard against the inconsistencies in our convictions. Who we hold God to be is significant for our lives and actions. Who we think Christ to be is as relevant today as in former times.  Who we take ourselves to be, and what we hold our missions to be for our Community in response to Christ are no light matters. Today, the "you" in us hinge on the private self of our definition. But the "you" that Christ desires us to be is for God's glory. Who you say that Christ is,  calls you to remember who you ought to be to yourself and for Christ.

   Often, crowd opinions about Jesus, or faith in Jesus are grossly inaccurate. But this is not due to ignorance but indifference. The questions posed by Jesus in today's Gospel should once again return to center stage for all committed Christians. Unease and forgetfulness must not override our obligation to seek more profound and better knowledge of Jesus. Our google search on Jesus is insufficient. Jesus knows how much publicity there is about his person and mission. Yet, Jesus willingly leads his disciples into searching the very crust of their convictions for Jesus. Who is Jesus for you today?

   Religious questions are not only about collectives and conventions. The spiritual faith must be about deeply-held and discretely professed convictions. It must be able and ready to play out in one's personal commitments. Today, the nature of the Christian religious truth makes it essential to ask: In your person, Community, household, and socio-religious circles, who is Jesus for you? This question is neither made light nor impossible by an excuse that "we did not see Jesus," or that he lived several centuries beyond our time. The question is simply as direct and demanding today as it was at Peter's time. It is not always contained in the books or logics by which we may confuse ourselves more.

  Likewise, God's kingdom is not entrusted exclusively to our forebears in faith. On the contrary, in every age and all times, those who genuinely seek God become acceptable to God, and they succeed in finding God (Acts 10:35). It is always God who grants us grace to know Him. God, not just flesh and blood, and indeed, not a classroom, research facility, or laboratory that reveals Jesus to us. This is what we must learn as one of the deep secrets made public in today's Gospel (Mt 16:17).

    There can be no real knowledge of Jesus that excludes Jesus from the ecclesial economy. No genuine claims to knowing Jesus seeks to destroy Community that reveals his presence. That explains why the Church builds on the faith-foundation of the apostles. It is also the reason why Peter and the Popes who succeed him, are included as Christ has named them in connection with "the keys."

 

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