for the twenty-first Sunday of the Year
Is 22:19-23 - Rom 11:33-36 - Mt 16:13-20
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
«You are Peter!»
Is 22:19, I will thrust you from your office, and you will be cast down from your station. 20, In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22, And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 23, And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father's house.
The passage from Isaiah chosen today as the first reading has some relation to this Sunday's gospel, notably in verse 22, which says: "I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open." In the gospel, Jesus says to Simon Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Mt 16:19)
The one who is here compared, by anticipation, with the Apostle Peter, is a certain Eliakim son of Hilkiah. He was the Prefect of the Palace of King Ezekiah, according to 2 Kings 18:18, although according to certain commentators the Hebrew text may indicate that Eliakim was instead the administrator of the Temple or House of God.
Another person appears in this passage from Isaiah. It is the one to whom verse 19 is addressed: a certain Shebna, the one who is replaced by Eliakim. Moreover, verses 15 to 18 also concern this other person. Let us note that Shebna also appears in 2 Kings 18:18.
Shebna is rejected by the Lord, who instead prefers Eliakim. This fact is not without interest, but it is difficult to find a connection between it and the great event recounted by the gospel: the foundation of the Church on the first stone, Simon. Only a few texts, as we have said, relate to the this Sunday's first reading.
Rom 11:33, O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34, For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? 35, Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? 36, For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen.
We all know it: we do not know what God knows! Saint Paul says so clearly in ineffable words!
God is a Mystery. And a Mystery is something we cannot understand, since it surpasses us, it surpasses our intelligence which is limited, our intelligence which is created, not uncreated.
Before the liturgical reform of the Vatican II Council, this brief text by Saint Paul served as a reading for the Mass of the Most Holy Trinity. There is nothing quite like it to celebrate the Most Holy Trinity, which is the very Mystery of God!
Mt 16:13, Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, «Who do men say that the Son of man is?» 14, And they said, «Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.» 15, He said to them, «But who do you say that I am?» 16, Simon Peter replied, «You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.» 17, And Jesus answered him, «Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18, And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19, I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.» 20, Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
From the Most Holy Trinity, we pass, almost naturally, to the Apostle Peter, the vicar of Christ as the foundation of the Church. Indeed, the Father spoke interiorly to Simon to tell him who that Man before him is who speaks to him exteriorly: he is his Son, the Son of God!
The Father and the Son both revealed themselves to Simon, in the Power of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Simon is the temple of the Most Holy Trinity, just as Saint Paul says of each and every one of the faithful of Christ: "Do you not know that you are God's temple?" (1 Cor 3:16)
Let us note that this gospel is that of the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, which we celebrated on June 29. My homily for this feast can be found at the following address:
Along with the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ and of the Church, let us follow the counsel of the Apostle Peter, who said: "Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 P 2:4-5)