Readings: First Reading: Isaiah 22: 15, 19 – 23, Responsorial Psalm: 138; Second Reading: Romans 11: 33:–36, Gospel: Matthew 16: 13 -20

In the twenty-second chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah, we find the prophet’s only criticism of an individual. The man in the prophet’s crosshairs is a certain Shebna, who is described as “master of the palace.” He is a high-ranking authority in the government of the people. 

In today’s first reading we hear of God choosing Eliakim to exercise headship over Israel. It is God who speaks; God who determines; God who sets the agenda. The fundamental question whether God determines how the efforts of religion will be directed. Isaiah is directed by God to announce that a royal official named Shebna will soon be replaced. God refers to Shebna with the dismissive word, that official, while his replacement Eliakim carries the noble title my servant. God says that he will place on his shoulders the key of the house of David; he shall open and none shall shut; and he shall shut and none shall open. Shebna was one of the court officials had put his trust in human resources than in God. He had tried to persuade Hezekiah to revolt against Assyria by sending for Egyptian support and amass large forces of chariots than serve God of Israel. Consequently, God commanded Isaiah to relate a message to him. Eliakim as the servant of God received his authority directly from God who clothes him in robe and sash, symbols of his office. God further describes Eliakim as a father to the people of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah since he will give priority to their welfare. He will carry the key of the house of David around his neck. What Eliakim shall open, no one shall shut; what he shall shut, no one shall open. Eliakim will not fail those who rely on him for support and influence.

In the Gospel of today we have the profession of faith by Peter in the messiahship of Jesus. In response Jesus confers on Peter the primacy and leadership in the church he was establishing. At the same time Jesus tells him that he will be the foundation of his church and grants him the gift of infallibility. Here we recall a high point in Jesus’ relationship with his disciples. They had been with Jesus for nearly three years. They had heard his teaching and seen his miracles. He had even sent them out on a mission to heal and to preach. They were attached to Jesus and had grown in their understanding of him. It took them quite a while to become aware who Jesus really was.

Saint Peter was vested with self – control, patience, compassion and discipline.  He was bestowed with a power to bear the cross of Christ.  Human as he was whenever Peter flunk in this regard, Jesus made him rise to his senses.  Soon after Investiture Ceremony, Peter was in ecstasy enjoying his honeymoon of power-control.  Suddenly, when he heard from Jesus about his sufferings in Jerusalem, Peter rebuked him.  But Jesus immediately scolded Peter saying, “Get behind me Satan.’ So Jesus’ primary aim to hand over any power to anybody in his kingdom is to control oneself, to discipline oneself and to be ready to bear the cross and follow him till the end.

The keys of the kingdom were given to Peter, to an individual not for his own sake.  In the figure of Peter, the entire Church was vested with that authority of service and discipline.  Peter was only a spokesperson,  a mouthpiece, a liaison, and a representative of the community of disciples.  He professed the faith in Jesus on behalf of the team of disciples, and he too received the power and authority on behalf of the community.  Those are the three meanings, which the Gospel ‘key’ incident teaches us.

Every one of us has been vested with some kind of control and power over certain people.  We become authorized in certain things of life.  Parents feel that they have got authority over their children; teachers over their students; political leaders and lawmakers over their citizens; religious leaders, bishops, priests, superiors over their communities.  I we, who have such privilege of power and authority, lose sight of those three truths symbolized by the keys, namely, the power of faith and self-discipline, the power of service, and the power representation, we will fail ourselves and fail others too like Shebna in Old Testament.  And we will surely hear from Jesus sooner or later, ‘get behind me Satan.’

Am I open to Jesus’ question “Who do *you* say that I am?” This text has been used so often for apologetic purposes that it is hard to recapture the drama, the uncertain silence, that must have followed Jesus’ question. 

And you,” Jesus goes on, “who do you say I am?” It was a moment of truth, a very special moment in his disciples’ relationship with their Master. Simon speaks up: “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is a huge step forward for Peter and his companions. As we shall see, it is not yet a total recognition of his identity or mission but is an exciting moment in their relationship with him.

The focus shifts immediately to Simon. He is praised for his insight but Jesus makes it clear that it comes from divine inspiration.  Jesus asks about what others say, but it is what Peter says that is important to him. Behind the words Jesus was not, for Peter, another great or admirable figure but was the one who could change his life.

Shepna spent his money, power and energy to build monument for himself.  We need to ask a question to ourselves.  How do we use the power and authority that we have?  The great spiritual question is.  What do you do with that power?  It is permanently a temptation to use that power to build monument for ourselves and to involve lot of people.  Our power precisely to the benefit of those whom we serve.  It is for the sake of those we have authority over.  We need to ask ourselves,  Am I operating like Shebna, Am I spending a lot of money and energy building monument for myself, rather than breathing life into people.

God Bless you.  Have a Blessed day.