HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
HOMILY THEME: “I WILL GIVE YOU THE KEYS”
BY: Fr. Johnbosco Obika
1st: Is. 22:19-23
2nd: Rom. 11:33-36
Gospel: Matt. 16:13-20
Today, we reflect on the concept of authority. The Old Testament ascribes every authority to God. God in turn designates to authority to men whom he wishes to. The new testament sees Jesus as one who has authority. In Mark 1:22 he has authority to preach; in Matthew Matthew 9:6-8 he has authority to forgive sins; in Matthew 12:27-28 he has the authority to heal and to cast out demons. In all this, he exercised his authority as a servant leader.
Humanity has suffered terribly in the hands leaders who lack knowledge of God and did not recognize him as the source of every authority. A person’s knowledge of God determines his destiny, determines his morality and sense of justice, determines how he reaches out to others; and also determines how he handles power and authority. In the readings of today the church challenges us to enter into deeper knowledge of God through Christ who is the paradigm of what authority means and how it should be handled.
The three readings of today dwells on concept of authority of God over everything and everyone. In the first reading Shebna did not recognize this and it resulted to his downfall. In the second reading Paul revers the authority of God which he exercises in amazing knowledge and wisdom. In the gospel Peter recognizes the authority of Christ as the Messiah and Jesus made him worthy to partake in this authority as the holder of the keys of the kingdom of God.
Not knowing God and recognizing his authority has disastrous consequences both on the leaders and the masses. This is what we see in the first reading. Shebna was the governor of the palace of King Hezekiah. He was carried away by his authority. He used his position to enrich himself. He did not seek direction from God and never cared about his commandments. He led the king astray by telling him to make alliance with Egypt against Assyria. The whole nation suffered because Shebna deceived them into trusting in the authority of other nation and not on that of God. His attitude was that of one who does not know God. Consequently the word of God came to him announcing his downfall and the advancement of Eliakim. His position was given to Eliakim (Eliakim means “whom God raises up). God addressed him as “my son” implying he was a good man and close to God; he knew God (Is. 22:20). God proclaimed he will commit authority to him, give him the keys of the house of David and the power to open and shut doors; he will become a throne of honour to his father’s house. Eliakim points to the prophecy of the Messiah (Jesus) who has the keys of David in Revelation 2:7.
St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, in recognizing God’s authority, marvels at the depths his wisdom and knowledge. His ways have constantly eluded the grasp of mortals. He enthrones and dethrones. He raises the humble up and humbles the pride. The way he elevates those who know him has ever been the wonder of even the wisest of men. The world elevates ungodly men and shower praises and titles upon them. The likes of Shebna who use their offices to enrich themselves and trample on the rights of the poor and the weak are enthroned in the world. But God’s way is different. He searches the mind and raises those who truly know him. The gospel pericope throws more light into the central message of today. Jesus gives Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven and the power to bind and loose because he confessed a true and deeper knowledge of him at Caesarea Philipi. The place where the event took place is very significant for us. Caesarea Philipi has a serious pagan history. It was a center of pagan religions with numerous temples. A center of Baal worship with at least 14 temples. It was also a place of where the Greek god of nature, Pan was worshiped. Stopping at a place like this to question his disciples about his identity has implication for us. Today, the world is full of worship of the devil, power, money, fame etc. These have caused serious distractions for people of God. In the midst of these Jesus is asking to know if we truly know him and to know his position in our lives. He first asked his disciples people’s opinion of him. From there answers, Jesus was just a great man, a celebrity or super star at best like John the Baptist, Elijah and Jeremiah who challenged the powers of their days. Then he asked them who they think he is. Peter replied that he is the Messiah (the anointed one), the Son of the living God. For this reason of knowing who Jesus is, Jesus bequeathed authority to him. The authority given to Peter was predicated upon the authority of Christ who came not to be served but to serve. Our country Nigeria is suffering terribly because of decision of leaders who do not know God and do not recognize that their position of power is from God and for the good of the masses and not for their personal aggrandizement. We must recognize that authority comes from God. Being in authority without knowing God is like jumping into the river without a life jacket.
When the righteous occupy the position of power the people of God rejoices and the nation is exalted. But when the wicked are in power there is wailing among the people which will eventually reach God for retribution.
All of us occupy positions of authority in our workplaces, churches, communities, constituencies, government parastatals. How do we see our position? Does our knowledge of God reflect in the way we treat those placed under us? May God help us to serve him in any position we find ourselves.