Theme: THE CHURCH SAVES US FROM HELL AND BRINGS US TO HEAVEN
- Isaiah 22:19-23;
- Psalm 137:1-3. 6. 8. R/ v. 8;
- Romans 11:33-36
- Matthew 16:13-20
1. Today is the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year A. The gospel today tells us that Jesus chose Peter to be the first Pope of the Church! More importantly, the gospel tells us that the Church saves us from hell and brings us to heaven! Thus we read:
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:18-19; SM)
All of us know that Christ died on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday! But not all of us know what Christ did on Holy Saturday! On Holy Saturday Christ went to hell to save Adam and Eve our first parents! This we can read from “an ancient homily for Holy Saturday” on “The Lord’s descent into hell” from the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday! Thus we read in 1 Peter 3:19:
“…. he went to preach to the spirits in prison.” (NJBh)
And thus we profess in the Apostles’ Creed every Sunday Mass:
“…. was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; ….”
Again, the Church saves us from hell and brings us to heaven! The authority to “bind” and “loose” is the Church’s authority to teach, to forgive sins, to exorcise and to excommunicate! (HCSB/NJBC)
Today our Pope Francis is the direct successor of Peter the first Pope in an unbroken line of 266 Popes! And our Bishops are the direct successors of the Twelve Apostles!
That is why we pray for our Pope and our Bishops at every Mass! But we have to pray for them even outside Mass!
2. The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading tells us that the Lord calls Eliakim to be the master of the palace of king Hezekiah of Judah who lived in the 8th and 7th century Before Christ (BC). One of the functions of the master of the king’s palace was to open and close the door of the king’s palace. Thus we read in the first reading:
“I place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; should he open, no one
shall close, should he close, no one shall open.” (Is 22:22; SM)
The first reading prefigures and prophesizes the choosing of Peter to open and close the door of the kingdom of heaven! Thus we read:
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven”! (Mt 16:19; SM)
3. The responsorial psalm is a thanksgiving for salvation! The responsorial psalm has three stanzas. The first and second stanzas are a thanksgiving for salvation. (NJBC)
Particularly, salvation through the Church of Christ! The third stanza from which the response is taken is an expression of confidence in God and a prayer asking God to connue to save us! (HCSB) Particularly through his Church! Thus we responded three times:
“Your love, O Lord, is eternal, discard not the work of your hands.” (Ps 137:8; SM)
4. The second reading is a continuation and a conclusion of the second reading of last Sunday. It is a hymn to the merciful wisdom of God in his plan of salvation! (NJBC/CSB)
The second reading of last Sunday tells us that the disobedience of the Jews made God show mercy to the pagans and the jealousy of the Jews of the pagans made God show mercy to the Jews and finally the disobedience of the Jews and pagans made God show mercy to all humankind! Such is the merciful wisdom of God in his plan of salvation!
But the hymn ends with a doxology/praise to God, not only for salvation, but also for creation! Thus the hymn concludes:
“All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.” (Rm 11:36; SM)
Today, we too give glory to God, not only for salvation, but also for creation! We are created in the image of God to be the co-creators of God to create life and not to destroy life! But today we are destroying life and thus the ecological crisis and the environmental destruction! But there is good news!
In 2014, on 2nd to the 5th of September, in the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei gathered and had a meeting on Creation! The vision was “Communion with all Creation” and the mission was “Stewardship of Creation”!
Science tells us that Creation and humanity are a Community! But Creation and Humanity are not yet in Communion! Creation and Humanity will be in Communion when humanity becomes the stewards of Creation!
5. Today we thank God for his Church, particularly for our Pope and Bishops, and we continue to pray for them as we pray for them at every Mass! Today we also thank God not only for Salvation, but also for Creation and we ask God to help us to be stewards of Creation so that we will be in Communion with all Creation! Amen!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.