Sunday, August 24, 2014

“It is not wisdom but Authority that makes a law”

"Teach nothing new, but implant in the hearts of everyone those things which the fathers of venerable memory taught with a uniform preaching ... Whence, we preach nothing except what we have received from our forefathers. In all things, therefore, both in the rule of faith in the observance of discipline, let the pattern of antiquity be observed." – Pope St. Leo the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church

Gospel Text: (MT 16:13-20)
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

When Jesus goes on to describe the keys he is giving Peter as “keys to the kingdom of heaven,” the phrase easily triggers the memory of those many cartoons that portray St. Peter monitoring the pearly gates, allowing some people in, and others not. While that association provides the setting for some wonderful humor, it distracts us from the context of the biblical meaning of “keys to the kingdom of heaven”.

This is what Jesus teaches us to pray for when we say “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”

Entering that kingdom on earth does eventually lead to entering the divine realm we call Heaven, but the authority given Simon Peter is a power that he exercises on earth. 

But this earthly authority is divinely authorized and don’t just take my word for it either, its right there before your eyes in today’s gospel noted above. That is what Jesus means when he says, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Many people say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” That statement usually means, “I try to take seriously God and my spiritual nature and destiny, but I have trouble relating to official church structures and external practices.” It can also mean that some people are looking for religion without any personal accountability or sacrifice. That kind of “religion” has nothing to do with what Jesus Christ taught or was all about.

Today’s Gospel reading reminds us that Jesus established a concrete community of followers who were to understand themselves as heirs to the covenant life of Israel. That means working out our collective salvation in the context of divinely established earthly authority. That also means believing that the authority of God works through human frailty.

Jesus Christ came on earth to establish a Church, not just to pardon people’s sins — and the disciples were destined to become that Church’s pillars. As we are taught by his word and nourished by his Body and Blood up until this very day, we can keep moving forward, becoming the holy people he longs for us to be.

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