Catholic Sunday Scripture Study, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 21, 2011
Isaiah 22: 19 - 23
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 Eli'akim the son of Hilki'ah,
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.
Psalm 138: 1-2, 2-3, 6, 8
R. (8bc) Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple.
R. Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
I will give thanks to your name,
because of your kindness and your truth:
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
R. Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees,
and the proud he knows from afar.
Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
R. Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.
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.
Matthew 16: 13 - 20
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesare'a Philip'pi, 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 Eli'jah, 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.
Overview of the Gospel:
• This Sunday’s Gospel reading takes place in the mostly Gentile city of Caesarea
Philippi, which was located about 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. Originally named
Paneas, after the pagan god of shepherds, Pan, it featured a popular shrine to him
carved into an immense rock cliff. Jesus chose this backdrop to make an important
• Jesus precedes his announcement by taking a kind of poll as to who the crowds
were saying that he was. He listens to the various theories, mostly likening him to the
prophets of old, especially Jeremiah, the suffering prophet, and Elijah, of who it was
predicted, would return to announce the coming of Messiah (Malachi 4:5, or, 3:23 in the
NAB or NJB).
• All are asked, but only Peter replies. Peter’s preeminence among the apostles is often
highlighted in the gospels (Matthew 10:2; Luke 22:31-32; John 1:42; 21:15-18). Here
Jesus will define that leadership role explicitly (verses 18-19) and as one that that will
last as long as the Church exists (verse 18). The first Vatican Council, in defining the
dogma of papal primacy and infallibility, specifically references this passage (Vatican I,
• The 1st Reading describes the appointment of new chief steward, or prime minister,
in the royal House of David. Why does it make sense that Jesus’ Kingdom would be
foreshadowed by (and be the fulfillment of) that of his forerunner, King David?
• In the context of the 2nd Reading, how might you look upon some of the disasters that
have befallen Christianity as potential blessings from the Holy Spirit? For example,
how might the Holy Spirit use the secularization of modern American culture as a blessing
for the Church rather than as a curse?
• Why did people think that Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah?
• What was significant about Peter’s confession?
• How does the Church interpret the insight (verse 17), power (verse 18), and authority
(verse 19) given to Peter? What are the “keys to the kingdom”? What do they
“bind and loose”?
• What Greek word translate the Aramaic word Kepha (John 1:41-42)? Why is the change
of Peter’s name significant, aside from the meaning of the name itself?
• When and how did you come to recognize Jesus as “Messiah, the Son of the
• In terms of the practical matters of everyday life, how do you answer Jesus’ question to
Peter for yourself?
from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church.
Gospel - Matthew 16:13-20
While Shebna may have proven not to be a worthy steward of the Davidic kingdom, Simon the fisherman has shown himself worthy of a new mission of stewardship in the Davidic kingdom; a kingdom which now has Jesus as its sovereign. As signs of this new mission of stewardship, Simon is given a new name and the symbol of his office as master of the palace.
13 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples,
The area where this event is believed to have taken place is at the headwaters of the Jordan River, at the site of a temple to the pagan god Pan. There is a large stone cliff there with the temple carved into it and a spring which feeds a stream which discharges into Lake Merom (which feeds into the Sea of Galilee which feeds into the Jordan River which feeds into the Dead Sea). This site exists even today.
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
The title "Son of Man" is a title which Jesus applies to Himself, it is never applied by His disciples. It refers back to Daniel 7:13.
14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist,
John the Baptist has recently been beheaded. If he has returned, he would have special powers and be able to perform the miracles which Jesus does.
Popular Jewish thought was that Elijah would return to announce the coming of the messiah [Malachi 4:5 (Malachi 3:23 in the New American Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible)]. Even today when the Passover Seder is celebrated in the Jewish household, a place is set for Elijah.
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
Jeremiah is the prophet who in his own experience of rejection and suffering announces the rejection and suffering of the messiah.
15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter said in reply,
Although all the disciples had been addressed, Simon takes it upon himself to act as the spokesman and answer for them all.
"You are the Messiah,
The name means "anointed." Although various figures in ancient Israel were anointed, the term came to be applied most distinctively to kings. Some writings in Jesus' time used the term to describe Israel's future leader in the period before and during the end times; he would fulfill Israel's hopes based on God's promises.
the Son of the living God."
Jesus has a unique consciousness of His sonship. Saint Matthew uses this relationship to direct attention away from the military-national connotations of the title "messiah."
17 Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
Recall that it was Jonah who announced the impending destruction of Nineveh and effected repentance of the people. This could be an early symbol of Peter's role.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18 And so I say to you, you are Peter,
In Aramaic the word is kepha, in Greek it is petros. The name means "rock." Noone had ever been named "Rock" before. Some will point out that petros means small stone while petra means large bolder in Greek. The text reads "You are petros and on this petra ..." Petra is the feminine form of the word and the Church has enough problems without the sacred author calling Peter effeminate. The usage in Greek at the time of Christ did not make a distinction in the meaning of the masculine and feminine forms of the word. In Aramaic, the language which Jesus spoke, kepha has no gender. You will see kepha transliterated as Cephas (Kephas) in John's gospel, 1st Corinthians and Galatians.
and upon this rock I will build my church,
The Greek term ekklesia is found only here and in Matthew 18:17 in the four gospels.
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
The netherworld is sheol in Hebrew, hades in Greek. It is the abode of the dead; where all departed souls go at the end of their earthly life since heaven has been closed from the time of Adam and Eve and will not be opened until the perfect sacrifice of the messiah. The gates of the netherworld will not prevail because even if the occupant of the office dies, the office will continue.
19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Just as in our first reading, the keys are the symbol of authority - given only to the most trusted servant - the Prime Minister.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Again just as in our first reading where the power to open and shut were given, here the ability to bind and loose are given. This is the ability to make the earthly rules for the Church - not change God's rules, but make the rules which implement His rules. He has full authority on earth, an authority which is bestowed and guaranteed by God. The earthly Church is related to the heavenly kingdom as it mediates salvation in the time between the earthly ministry of Jesus and the future coming of the heavenly kingdom. Binding and loosing are rabbinic technical terms that can refer to binding the devil in exorcism and the juridical acts of excommunication and of definitive decision making (which is a form of teaching through legislation and policy setting). The authority to bind and loose is given to the disciples in Matthew 18:18, but to Peter alone are accorded the revelation, the role of the rock of foundation (see Ephesians 2:20), and especially the keys. Notice that the binding and loosing are initiated on earth but are confirmed in heaven.
20 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.
By counseling His disciples to be silent, Jesus avoids false interpretation of His messiahship as He prepares them for the instructions that are to follow.
Just as in our first reading, the office of Peter is a perpetual office; in fact it is the same office which was once occupied by Shebna and Eliakim. The position continues even though the occupant changes. Each occupant of the office of Peter is invested with the keys and the responsibility to bind and loose for the entire Church. This is why the popes are called the "Successors of Peter."
The Magisterium of the Church, in the First Vatican Council, defined the doctrine of the primacy of Peter and his successors in these terms:
"We teach and declare, therefore, according to the testimony of the Gospel that the primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church was immediately and directly promised to and conferred upon the blessed Apostle Peter by Christ the Lord. For to Simon, Christ had said, 'You shall be called Cephas' (John 1:42). Then, after Simon had acknowledged Christ with the confession, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God' (Matthew 16:16), it was to Simon alone that the solemn words were spoken by the Lord: '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, and the powers of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' (Matthew 16:17-19). And after His Resurrection, Jesus conferred upon Simon Peter alone the jurisdiction of supreme shepherd and ruler over His whole fold with the words, 'Feed my lambs . . . Feed my sheep' (John 21:15-17). [...]
"(Canon) Therefore, if anyone says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not constituted by Christ the Lord as the Prince of all the Apostles and the visible head of the whole Church militant, or that he received immediately and directly from Jesus Christ our Lord only a primacy of honor and not a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction: let him be condemned.
"Now, what Christ the Lord, supreme shepherd and watchful guardian of the flock, established in the person of the blessed Apostle Peter for the perpetual safety and everlasting food of the Church must, by the will of the same, endure without interruption in the Church which was founded on the rock and which will remain firm until the end of the world. Indeed, 'no one doubts, in fact it is obvious to all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, Prince and head of the Apostles, the pillar of faith, and the foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and the Redeemer of the human race; and even to this time and forever He lives,' and governs, 'and exercises judgement in his successors' (cf. Council of Ephesus), the bishops of the holy Roman See, which He established and consecrated with His blood. Therefore, whoever succeeds Peter in this Chair holds Peter's primacy over the whole Church according to the plan of Christ Himself [...]. For this reason, 'because of its greater sovereignty,' it was always 'necessary for every church, that is, the faithful who are everywhere, to be in agreement' with the same Roman Church [...].
"(Canon) Therefore, if anyone says that it is not according to the institution of Christ our Lord Himself, that is, by divine law, that Saint Peter has perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church; or if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of Saint Peter in the same primacy: let him be condemned [...].
"We think it extremely necessary to assert solemnly the prerogative which the only-begotten Son of God deigned to join to the highest pastoral office. And so, faithfully keeping to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, for the glory of God our Savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion, and for the salvation of the Christian peoples, We, with the approval of the sacred council, teach and define that it is a divinely revealed dogma: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, acting in the office of shepherd and teacher of all Christians, he defines, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, possesses through the divine assistance promised to him in the person of Saint Peter, the infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals; and that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are therefore irreformable because of their nature, but not because of the agreement of the Church.
"(Canon) But if anyone presumes to contradict this our definition (God forbid that he do so): let him be condemned" (Vatican I, Pastor aeternus, chapters 1, 2, 9 and 4).”
Loyola Press Sunday Connection
Background on the Gospel Reading
It is important to read today's Gospel and next week's Gospel as two parts of a single story. These readings are a turning point in Matthew's Gospel. This week we hear Jesus name Simon Peter as the rock upon which he will build his Church. Next week we will hear Jesus call this same Simon Peter "Satan" when he reacts negatively to Jesus' prediction about his passion and death.
In today's Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples what people are saying about his identity. The disciples indicate that most people believe that Jesus is a prophet of Israel. Then Jesus asks his disciples who they believe that he is. Simon Peter answers, identifying Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.
Jesus commends Simon Peter for this profession of faith, indicating that this insight has come from God. Because of Simon Peter's response, Jesus calls him the "rock" upon which Jesus will build the Church. This is a word play on the name Peter, which is the Greek word for "rock." Peter is then given special authority by Jesus, a symbolic key to the Kingdom of Heaven. Peter will play an important role in the early Christian community as a spokesperson and a leader.
In today's Gospel, Peter's recognition of Jesus' identity is credited to a revelation by God. This will contrast sharply with Jesus' rebuke of Peter in next week's Gospel. When Peter rejects Jesus' prediction of his passion and death, Peter is said to no longer be thinking as God does but as humans do.
The use of the term church in today's Gospel is one of only three such occurrences in Matthew's Gospel. Peter in this Gospel is being credited as the foundation for the Church, a privilege granted to him because of his recognition of Jesus' identity. The Church continues to be grounded in the faith that Jesus Christ is Lord.
On October 16th 1978, two days after the Papal Conclave had commenced, white smoke issued from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel announcing that a Pope had been chosen. A half hour later a Cardinal announced that Cardinal Karol Woytyla had been chosen as Pope and was taking the name John Paul II. The crowd in St. Peter’s Square was bewildered; a Pole elected as Pope, and then Pope John Paul II stepped onto the balcony shortly afterwards speaking excellent Italian. If you were to follow the speculation before and during a conclave about who would become Pope you should be prepared to be surprised because of the last fifteen Popes only three were favorites before their elevation (Leo XIII, Pius XII and Paul VI). Many trees were consumed in all the newsprint speculation about the two Papal elections in 1978 but the two Popes elected, John Paul I and John Paul II, scarcely received a mention. No wonder that the Romans have a saying, “The one who goes into a conclave as Pope comes out again as Cardinal.” (Facts about conclave speculation taken from The Election of the Pope by Cantwell)
Just as the media usually get it wrong concerning a future Pope, in Jesus’ day many people also got it wrong about Jesus. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matt 16:13-14) It was Peter who got it right, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt 16:16) Then Jesus, to use our terminology, proclaimed Peter the first Pope. Just as those who are elected Popes are almost always a surprise, Jesus’ choice of Peter was also a surprise. When Peter tried to walk on the sea his faith was not strong enough (Matt 14:28-31) and when put under pressure during Jesus’ trial he denied Jesus three times. Perhaps the media would have suggested the apostle John instead. During the Last Supper in Luke’s account (22:32) Jesus said that after Peter had recovered his faith he was to strengthen his brother apostles. We could describe this as the role of the Pope, to strengthen the faith of the Church. And in John 21:15-17 three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him and three times Peter replied that he did and each time Jesus asked him to look after his sheep.
Read the rest of this homily here.
as always, Cat––great work. Preach it, Sister!
• What was significant about Peter’s confession?
As noted, it is Peter who pipes up and responds.
Was he already a leader of the group? Did the other Apostles defer to him. I think so. As Bishop Sheen says of today's Good News: "...we must remember that our Blessed Lord chose all the Apostles first and made them a group ..a "college" of sorts. He then individually chose Peter to head them and lead them." Our Lord thus singles out Peter, after first gathering the group, the early Church.
Peter was bold
in his proclamation of faith! No hanging back; no hesitation. And Jesus reminds Peter it is our Father, through the Holy Spirit, who has allowed Peter to say this. Let us all be as bold as Peter: "JESUS IS THE MESSIAH, OUR LORD!"
So now we go from the particular to the general. Back up a bit here in today's Gospel reading:
Notice how our Blessed Lord asks his disciples: ""Who do men say that the Son of man
is?" There's that phrase which a lot of us have trouble with, the "Son of Man." It's used in the New Testament at least 81 times. Very complicated duality here, Sisters and Brothers:
Jesus is using this phrase to remind all of his humble human origins. Anyone in Jesus' time could casually identify with Jesus as being born of Mary, like anyone else.
But, He is, in fact, THE ONLY PERFECT HUMAN BEING, as God had intended. Jesus shows us in every one of his thoughts, words, and deeds, what it truly means to be "human" as God truly intended. Now that's really significant about Peter's confession.
And, as our Blessed Lord keeps reminding his Apostles, the "time is not right" for him to reveal his true identity as the Messiah.