ALL AUTHORITY COMES FROM GOD (cf. Rom 13:1)
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Isaiah 22:19-23; Psalm 138:1-2a, 2bcd-3,6 and 8bc (R.8bc); Rom 11:33-36; Matt 16:13-20
The Readings of today point out the fact that every authority comes from God. Other themes that might also be developed from them would serve to support that major theme. In the Gospel, Jesus handed the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter. The First Reading, like the Gospel, refers to that key as a sign of authority. There are some points that need to be clarified here:
First, Jesus handed the leadership of the Church over to Peter but that did not make Peter a “substitute-Jesus”. A substitute replaces, but Peter only represents. Jesus himself told Peter and other apostles, “I will be with you till the end of time” (Matt 28:20). That means, there was no time he needed to be replaced. That is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is the invisible head of the Church while the Pope, a successor of Peter, is the vicar of Christ (the visible head of the Church) on earth.
Second, God himself is the one who appoints the leaders. Jesus said, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jona. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And [based on that privilege] I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matt 16:17-18). But in what way? The Church teaches that it is in matters of faith and morals, on which account she teaches papal infallibility, for Jesus said in another place, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like a grain, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail you. And when you have turned back again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). And Jesus stamped his intention on that when he said to Peter shortly before his ascension, “Feed my lamb…Tend my sheep…Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
Third, God does not call the qualified but qualifies the called. No one is perfect (Rom 3:10); Peter himself was not perfect. Why then do we Catholics call the Pope the Holy Father? In essence, only God is holy. However, the things that are associated with God can also be classified as holy. The Bible itself referred to some people and places as holy in that light (cf. Gen 28:16; Exod 19:6, 28:48; Lev 10:17; Rom 1:7; 1Pet 1:16, etc.). So it is in relation to the person of Christ and based on him being the visible head and father of the holy people of God that the Pope is called the Holy Father.
Fourth, the Church gets her authority to forgive sins from God himself. Jesus said to Peter today, “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” (Matt 16:19). Similar thing was said to Shebna, a head of a household, in the First Reading, “I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; he shall shut, and none shall open” (Isa 22:22). In the Gospel of John, Jesus gave them that authority to forgive sins after breathing the Holy Spirit into them (cf. John 20:22-23). So when a priest absolves a penitent from sin, it is not him, the priest, but God who forgives.
Can we now see that everything revolves around God? That is because God is the origin. The Second Reading says that everything comes from him and he is all in all. Hence, it is to him that all glory and praise shall return. Moreover, to obey those in authority is to obey God, and to disobey them is to resist God (cf. Rom 13:2).
May God bless our Pope and make him a true shepherd to his flock on earth. May no worldly power subdue the authority which he generously bequeathed to his Church on earth so that we can continue to walk firmly on the path that leads to eternal life as he wills. Amen
Have a blessed and faithful Sunday. Peace be with you.