"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
August 21, 2011: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
• Isaiah 22:19-23
Theme: In the ancient world keys were a symbol of authority entrusted to the chief steward of the royal household to act on the king’s behalf. The key, which was placed on his shoulder signified how “the whole weight of the father’s house” (the kingdom) was his responsibility (Is 22:24).
In this week’s first reading Shebna, the master of the palace, is thrown out of office and replaced by Eliakim. Shebna was fired because he selfishly used his position to enrich himself rather than serve the nation. The “key” that was taken from Shebna and given to Eliakim symbolized the authority of the king to act on his behalf at a critical time in Israel’s history.
Eliakim foreshadows Peter (this week’s Gospel) who would play a decisive role in God’s kingdom. By entrusting Peter with the keys of the kingdom Jesus gave him and his successors the authority to guide and govern the Church in his name.
In the first 11 chapters of Romans St. Paul establishes the foundation of the Christian faith by explaining God’s plan of salvation. This week’s second reading concludes that section with a magnificent doxology to God who alone possesses all power and authority.
Key verse: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church … and I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:18, 19).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the ‘rock’ of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the pope” (No. 881).
Pope Benedict XVI: “Peter is responsible for guaranteeing communion with Christ with the love of Christ, guiding people to fulfill this love in everyday life. Let us pray that the Primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, will always be exercised in this original sense as the Lord desired, and that its true meaning will therefore always be recognized by the brethren who are not yet in full communion with us” (“The Apostles”).
Life application: Empires come and go, but the kingdom of God endures forever. The “seed and beginning” of that kingdom is the Catholic Church, which was entrusted to Peter and his successors. For 2,000 years the Church has fought against “the gates of hell” to free those imprisoned by sin. While other churches have split into thousands of different groups, the Catholic Church remains united, standing firm against evil because she is built on the rock of St. Peter who “guarantees communion with Christ.”
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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