14b Musa Yar'Adua Street (Off Kofo Abayomi Street), V.I Lagos

21st Sunday A

21st Sunday A

YOU ARE PETER…ON THIS ROCK

My dear brothers and sisters, before one can judge a house to be strong, there is the need to examine its foundation. Is the house built on a sound foundation? To hold the key to a building means to be in charge, even if for a moment. We are very familiar with caretakers in our city today and they on behalf of house owners manage their buildings and collect money on their behalf.

First Reading (Isaiah 22: 19-23)
Sometimes we find people in positions of authority and trust, who instead of caring for the people take glory in erecting monuments in their own remembrance and singing their own praises. If they succeed in putting up a block of two classrooms, they put their name on it. If they repair any road, it is named after their father or their mother. Almost all the major streets in town will bear their name and that of their family members. It was the same thing that happened during the time of the prophet Isaiah.

Shebna was the Prime Minister when Hezekiah was king of Israel. The Prime Minister was the second highest official in the royal civil service and was someone who had free access to the King’s Palace. He was also to be in charge of all the other ministers to see to it that they did their jobs. He had full powers in the palace of the king with the right to administer the king’s property and to decide who was to be received or kept away from the Palace. The Prime minister was next to the king himself. Shebna however misused the opportunity, he misplaced the priority of his office. Instead of caring for the people of Judah and Jerusalem and giving the king the right information about what was going on, he was busy putting up a marble monument with public funds—carving out for himself a tomb on the height, and in the rock (Is 22:15ff). God intervened and sent Isaiah to prophesy in today’s message, about the end to the authority of Shebna as the Prime minister. Eventually, Shebna was caught cheating and was dismissed from office.

A replacement was found in Eliakim son of Hilkiah. Hilkiah was the high priest who had found the copy of the book of the Law that prompted the reform of King Josiah (cf. 2Kgs 22:8) He shall from now administer the kings property in place of Shebna. Eliakim will be clothed or invested in the robe of this new office to symbolise his authority. He will perform three roles:
He will be a father to the people—a role that belongs to God alone but which is now shared by those he appoints over his household.
He will posses the keys—a symbol of authority to decide who goes in and out. He will also control the store house—the goods of the household—the one who gives each one their measure of food like Joseph in Egypt.
He will be as a tent peg—this peg is the symbol of stability and firmness. It holds the tent or house in place—the one who holds this office therefore is the one who guarantees the stability of the household or kingdom.
The story of Shebna is a lesson for each and every one of us. Wherever you may find yourselves, you must count it as coming from God to serve. You can never be above the people you are called to serve. The customer rather than the producer should be king. But like Shebna many of our people no longer value service, rather they want others to serve them. It was not as if Eliakim did better, he also allowed the spoil of office to enter into his heart and went astray becoming corrupt in the process. Let us be very careful about what we do, we shall have to render account.

Second Reading (Romans 11:33-36)
In this short selection, Paul poses a question on who can or whether it is possible to know the depth of the riches and the wisdom of God. Such questions creates even more difficult situation that leads to only one end—the praise of the wisdom of God since all glory belongs to him. God knows the depth of each and everyone, yet it is impossible for a man or woman to know the mind of God. It is to him therefore that all authority belongs and it is to him wed must give an account of our lives on earth and of the opportunities we have been give to run the affairs of the world.

Gospel (Matthew 16: 13-20)
Just like Eliakim received the keys to the Palace of the king in the first reading, Peter also received the keys of the kingdom of heaven in the Gospel. Eliakim received that of an earthly palace, but Peter received that of the eternal kingdom.
Jesus knew that different people had different opinions about his person, but there was the need to be sure that the disciples have a clear vision about him and his mission, so he decided to ask them to be sure. Most times when you look at the result of opinion polls, except when carefully monitored, you may find many answers that are in the best, contradictory. The more the number of people involved in the polls the more the contradictions recorded except when ready-made answers are provided and people just have to choose A or B.

Jesus asked the first question, “Who do men say the Son of Man is?” Most times, it is easy to reproduce the answers already proffered by others. The main problem is with providing a new and alternative answer to what people already know. The disciples had the same problem. People say you are a prophet, some say you are a carpenter, some say you are Elijah, some even say you are John the Baptist. Definitely they did not want to mention the other side of the comments made by the people “some say you are a blasphemer, you have no respect for the Sabbath, you make yourself God’s equal.” There was no personal response except what others had said at this stage. What of you, even if the people do not know me, who do you say that I am? It was Peter who answered. His answer that day also gave him a new role in the life of the Church—“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This answer of Peter is born of faith, careful reflection, but more importantly the grace of God revealing the person of Jesus to him. Jesus then said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church…”
Here Jesus applies the same language of the first reading to the position of Peter:
The keys—controls access—in maters of faith and morals—infallible
The power to bind and lose—this power is also shared with the College of Apostles—to free from sin and the bondage of evil
On this rock, I will build … Nothing can prevail against it—Solomon built the Temple on the mount—more than a tent peg.

Many interpret the answer of Jesus here to mean that Peter himself is the rock. They are not far from the truth. There is another angle to it, Kepha-Peter is also translated as “building stone.” In this case, Jesus himself is the foundation, which is the same as the faith professed by Peter in his response, “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God,” Peter is therefore a building stone. Jesus praised Peter, not because he had a personal answer but because he had the right answer. What about us today? What is our view of Jesus? A wonder worker? A hero? A prophet? The Lord of the harvest? These are ready-made answers based on other people’s experiences of Jesus. For me, for you, who is Jesus? Find your own answer.

Let us pray: Lord give us a firm faith in you like Peter, make us instruments of your gospel to bring your message to all around us. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Have a blessed week.
Many interpret the answer of Jesus here to mean that Peter himself is the rock. They are not far from the truth. There is another angle to it, Kepha-Peter is also translated as “building stone.” In this case, Jesus himself is the foundation, which is the same as the faith professed by Peter in his response, “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God,” Peter is therefore a building stone. Jesus praised Peter, not because he had a personal answer but because he had the right answer. What about us today? What is our view of Jesus? A wonder worker? A hero? A prophet? The Lord of the harvest? These are ready-made answers based on other people’s experiences of Jesus. For me, for you, who is Jesus? Find your own answer.

Let us pray: Lord give us a firm faith in you like Peter, make us instruments of your gospel to bring your message to all around us. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Have a blessed week.