What does it mean to lead God’s people?
By Sharon Priester
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time/Aug. 27
Isaiah 22:19-23; Psalm 138:1-2,2-3,6,8; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20
What does it mean to be a leader of God’s people? I am sure we all have our thoughts on that question. After we listen to and reflect on this Sunday’s readings, we may have more to ponder.
In the first reading from Isaiah, we encounter Shebna, “the master of the palace.” (Isaiah 22:15) He is being thrust out his office because he has taken funds for his own personal use. Eliakim, a servant, is chosen to take his place. All authority is given to Eliakim when he is given the “key” of the House of David. The “key” is a symbol of authority, to rule under the guidance of God.
Paul, in the second reading, is describing his profound awe and wonder of God. He is rejoicing at having God’s abundant mercy showered upon him. We hear this in the very last sentence of this reading with the following words: “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory given. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)
In this Sunday’s passage from Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus meets his disciples and asks them, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, proclaims, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Upon hearing this, Jesus appoints Peter to be the leader, “the rock” (Matthew 16:18) on which Jesus will build the church. (Note that another name for Peter is Petra, which means rock.)
Furthermore, Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the ‘keys,’” a symbol of authority, “to the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 16:19) Jesus goes on to say, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,” and “whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:30) With this authority given to Peter and his disciples is the promise that whoever their successors (popes, cardinals, etc.) are, they will have the same authority, even up to this very day.
WE HOLD THE KEY
As we consider these readings, it would be good to reflect on the words of Psalm 138, which is the Responsorial Psalm this weekend: “Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.” God’s love for us is forever and ever. It’s never-ending.
We, too, hold a “key” to the kingdom. How can we use that key? Let us first “unlock” our hearts and minds, thus opening up to the presence of God within us and around us. Let us try to be a leader of God’s people and share our love of God with every single person we encounter and invite them to join us along our journey of faith.
Each day, pray and reflect on Psalm 138 and give thanks to God, our Lord: “Your kindness, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands.”
SHARON PRIESTER has served as a parish catechist and director of religious education, Bible study leader, RCIA team member and coordinator, and regional director of religious education for the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.