21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
“I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Matthew 16:19
However, on this particular visit, the retired pastor pointed out a particular and intriguing feature on the door of the tabernacle in his home.
But curiously, also engraved on the tabernacle door was an image of Judas. He was depicted with a noose around his broken neck. It was a haunting reminder of his betrayal of Christ - the fate of a traitor.
As I reflected about this on the way home, I occurred to me that the image of St. Peter was right beside the lock on the door in which the key had been securely placed. Did we not hear in the Gospel today how Christ gave Peter the authority to open the door of heaven for those seeking salvation and to also lock it secure against those who would oppose God's grace and mercy. Who was furthest away from it? Of course, the image of Judas was furthest from the lock and key and rightly so. We are told he was also a thief!
Although he was one of the twelve apostles who sat in the very presence of Christ himself and dined at his table, Judas chose the darkest corner of the room. Rather than opening up the rich treasure of the abundance of Christ’s healing mercy, Judas fed only himself, he licked his own wounds, he drank own tears. He reminds us, warns us, that we too can sit in the front pew, can kneel before God in adoration but without ever wanting to open the door to the tender Heart of Christ, even when the key to the lock is looking straight at us. Sometimes, we can feel we are at the bottom of a whole pecking order of apostles and disciples and rather than painstakingly going up the chain of command, in our hunger we feel like crying out in the words of the Entrance Antiphon: "Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I cry to you all the day long" (Ps.85:1-3) or in our own plight we might shout out loud, “If anyone up there has a key and knows how to use it, please open the door!”
That’s where Peter comes in. He once dared to walk on water to get closer to Christ but sank like a rock when he became afraid. Today we hear how he dares to bring to light the secret identity of the Lord for the sake of a world hungry for salvation. And for his daring faith he is given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. But typical of the saint, he sometimes will fumble with the key and other times forgets he has it in his pocket. But he will never loose it, for Christ himself trusts Peter the fisherman with this sacred key giving him the authority and the permission to use it to open up and to lock down when necessary.
And Peter’s ministry of holder of the keys of heaven continues, as it has for nearly two thousand years, down to the present day, through a continuous succession of popes. For this reason, we always pray in union with the pope and for his continued health and strength of faith.
Like the popes before him in their own private chapel, every morning and evening, you can be assured that Pope Francis kneels in prayer and adoration before the tabernacle of the Most High. Whether the key is in the tabernacle or in his pocket, regardless if the door is open or closed, Francis, like Peter is always the one closest to the lock. Let us pray that he will never be afraid to use the key the Lord has entrusted him to secure, for the salvation of all peoples, the rich abundant treasure of Christ’s healing mercy and enduring love.