Thus says the Lord to Shebna, master of the palace: "I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim's shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family."
1) 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. (Refrain:)
2) 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. (Refrain:)
3) 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. (Refrain:)
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that he may be repaid? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 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." Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)
Early in the book of Genesis, we see the importance of “naming” and that it has always been the role of humans. After God has created all of “the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, God brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name”. (Gen 2:19)
Even for our Lord, who the disciples called him was important to him. And note also, after Peter has acknowledged who he thinks Jesus is, our Lord points out to him who is responsible for his revelation: his heavenly Father.
Even though we know the Father through his Son, as Jesus himself told us, I think we fail to acknowledge the omnipotence of the Father.
I’m sure many of you have either read the book Heaven Is for Real or have seen the movie. For those of you who haven’t, it is about a three-year-old boy named Colton who has been having stomach pains for five days before they discover what it is and operate on him for a burst appendix. The prognosis is not good. His father, Todd, is the author of the book and also a minister. Once he finds out the seriousness of the situation, he contacts several members of his congregation and asks them to pray for his son. The next morning after the operation, Colton has made an apparently miraculous recovery that amazes his doctor and the other staff in the hospital. The surgery had taken place in March. Over the next few months, Colton reveals to his parents, Todd and Sonja, that he went to heaven during the operation, had sat on Jesus’ lap and the angels had sung to him. Then there is the following revelation. Todd writes:
- One evening in October, I was sitting at the kitchen table, working on a sermon. Sonja was around the corner in the living room, working on the business books, processing job tickets, and sorting through payables. Cassie played Barbie dolls at her feet. I heard Colton's footsteps padding up the hallway and caught a glimpse of him circling the couch, where he then planted himself directly in front of Sonja.
"Mommy, I have two sisters," Colton said.
I put down my pen. Sonja didn't. She kept on working.
Colton repeated himself. "Mommy, I have two sisters."
Sonja looked up from her paperwork and shook her head slightly. "No, you have your sister, Cassie, and . . . do you mean your cousin, Traci?"
"No." Colton clipped off the word adamantly. "I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn't you?"
At that moment, time stopped in the our household, and Sonja's eyes grew wide. Just a few seconds before, Colton had been trying unsuccessfully to get his mom to listen to him. Now, even from the kitchen table, I could see that he had her undivided attention.
"Who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?" Sonja said, her tone serious.
"She did, Mommy. She said she died in your tummy."
Then Colton turned and started to walk away. He had said what he had to say and was ready to move on. But after the bomb he’d just dropped, Sonja was just getting started. Before our son could get around the couch, Sonja's voice rang out in an all-hands-on-deck red alert. "Colton Todd Burpo, you get back here right now!"
Colton spun around and caught my eye. His face said, What did I just do?
I knew what my wife had to be feeling. Losing that baby was the most painful event of her life. We had explained it to Cassie; she was older. But we hadn't told Colton, judging the topic a bit beyond a four-year-old's capacity to understand. From the table, I watched quietly as emotions rioted across Sonja's face.
A bit nervously, Colton slunk back around the couch and faced his mom again, this time much more warily.
"It's okay, Mommy," he said. "She's okay. God adopted her."
Sonja slid off the couch and knelt down in front of Colton so that she could look him in the eyes. "Don't you mean Jesus adopted her?" she said.
"No, Mommy. His Dad did!"
Sonja turned and looked at me. In that moment, she later told me, she was trying to stay calm, but she was overwhelmed. Our baby . . . was—is!—a girl, she thought.
Sonja focused on Colton, and I could hear the effort it took to steady her voice. "So what did she look like?"
"She looked a lot like Cassie," Colton said. "She is just a little bit smaller, and she has dark hair."
Sonja's dark hair.
As I watched, a blend of pain and joy played across my wife's face. Cassie and Colton have my blond hair. She had even jokingly complained to me before, "I carry these kids for nine months, and they both come out looking like you!" Now there was a child who looked like her. A daughter. I saw the first hint of moisture glint in my wife's eyes.
Now Colton went on without prompting. "In heaven, this little girl ran up to me, and she wouldn't stop hugging me," he said in a tone that clearly indicated he didn't enjoy all this hugging from a girl.
"Maybe she was just happy that someone from her family was there," Sonja offered. "Girls hug. When we're happy, we hug."
Colton didn't seem convinced.
Sonja's eyes lit up and she asked, "What was her name? What was the little girl's name?"
Colton seemed to forget about all the yucky girl hugs for a moment. "She doesn't have a name. You guys didn't name her." How did he know that?
"You're right, Colton," Sonja said. "We didn't even know she was a she."
Then Colton said something that still rings in my ears: "Yeah, she said she just can't wait for you and Daddy to get to heaven."
From the kitchen table, I could see that Sonja was barely holding it together. She gave Colton a kiss and told him he could go play. And when he left the room, tears spilled over her cheeks.
"Our baby is okay," she whispered. "Our baby is okay"
From that moment on, the wound from one of the most painful episodes in our lives, losing a child we had wanted very much, began to heal. For me, losing the baby was a blow. But Sonja had told me that to her, the miscarriage not only seared her heart with grief, but it also felt like a personal failure.
"You do all the right things, eat all the right things, and you pray for the baby's health, but still this tiny baby dies inside you," she had once told me. "I feel guilty. I know in my mind that it wasn't my fault, but there's still this guilt."
We had wanted to believe that our unborn child had gone to heaven. Even though the Bible is largely silent on this point, we had accepted it on faith. But now, we had an eyewitness: a daughter we had never met was waiting eagerly for us in eternity. From then on, Sonja and I began to joke about who would get to heaven first. There were several reasons she had always wanted to outlive me. For one thing, a pastor's wife has to put up with being used as a sermon illustration a lot. If I died first, she's always told me, she'd finally get to tell the congregation all her stories about me.
But now Sonja had a reason for wanting to reach heaven first. When she was pregnant with the child we lost, we had picked out a boy's name—Colton—but we never could agree on a name for a little girl. I liked Kelsey, she liked Caitlin, and neither of us would budge.
But now that we know our little girl doesn't have a name yet, we constantly tell each other, "I'm going to beat you to heaven and name her first!” (1)
There are a couple of points that I wanted to make about this story. As I like to mention at baptisms, note that it is God the Father who adopts the girl as His own, just as He adopts every newly baptized person. And, of course, there is the importance of names. Note that God himself does not name the child; He waits for one of the human parents to name her.
Names are important. And so the question becomes for us: who do we say Jesus is? If we believe, as Peter did, that Jesus is the Son of God, well, that changes everything.
1. From Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo, pp. 94-97. Copyright 2010 by HIFR Ministries, Inc. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN.
(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org )
Before we look at today's reading, I wanted to put this reading from Matthew in its historical perspective. Matthew is heavily influenced by Mark's gospel and is considered by many scholars to be an expanded version of Mark's. For example, Mark's recounting of today's gospel only goes as far as Peter's answer that Jesus is the Messiah. Mark includes none of our Lord's response to Peter. Now Mark was a companion of Peter who wrote down what Peter preached about the life of Christ. Thus, it is totally understandable that Peter never mentioned our Lord's response to him because it was too flattering. But Peter held nothing back in speaking of those occasions when he failed miserably. (How much does that say about this ordinary man who did not refrain from speaking freely about his own weaknesses!) In writing his gospel, however, Matthew had other sources upon which to rely which noted that Mark's recounting of this exchange between Peter and Jesus did not include our Lord's important response.
With these facts in mind, we can consider Christ's response to Peter's faith. "Peter, your name means a rock, and your destiny is to be a rock." Now a rock is as firm a foundation for any building as there is on earth. Earlier in Matthew's gospel, our Lord describes what this foundation on a rock means for a house when he says: "and the rains fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock". Also, in the psalms and elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures, God is often referred to as the rock. "O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer." In addition, no one before had ever been called by the proper name of Peter, which comes from the Greek word "petros". Thus, Christ is paying Peter the highest compliment possible.
"Peter, you are the first one to recognize me for what I am, and therefore you are the first stone in the edifice of the fellowship of those who are mine." The interpretation here is that Peter is the first stone in the community of the church, the mystical body of Christ.
"Against that fellowship the embattled powers of evil will no more prevail than they will be able to hold me captive in death." Just as death cannot imprison our Lord after the resurrection, so it will not be able to hold any of his followers. "And in the days to come, you must be the steward who will unlock the doors of the Kingdom so that Jew and Gentile may come in." In our first reading today, God says that he will give the keys of the House of David to Eliakim, which foreshadows the words which Jesus uses here.
So what about this rock who is Peter? What else do we know about him? Just two weeks ago, we heard Matthew recount the incident when the disciples were in a boat being buffeted by strong winds when Jesus came to them walking on the water. Peter asked the Lord to let him walk towards him, which he did for a while. But once he realized what was happening, his faith in our Lord weakened and he went right into the water.
And then there is Transfiguration on the Mount. Peter is so amazed at seeing Moses and Elijah with a glorified Christ that he babbles some words about putting up three tents for each of them.
And who of us does not remember Peter's denials? "Yes, Lord, even if everyone else deserts you, I will stand by you!" "But Peter, you are to deny me three times." "No, no, no, it will not happen, Lord." But in the end, it does happen as the Lord has predicted.
So what is the point of all this? It is that Peter's actions in all of these situations, and others in the gospels as well, could easily have been ours. For example, as unreasonable as Peter's remarks on the mountain were, he probably spoke words that would be similar to our own wishes on numerous occasions in our own lives.
- Some years ago I was attending a convention of pastoral musicians when the closing liturgy was held on the feast of the Transfiguration, August 6. All of us present had just spent several days socializing with our counterparts, listening to new music and, in general, recharging our collective batteries. We were having a wonderful time and I'm sure that many of us did not want it to end. At that liturgy, the homilist crystalized these thoughts when he pointed out that we may all feel like Peter did on the mountain and wish we could just set up three tents there where we all could spend more time in this nurturing environment (at least to church musicians): where celebrants sing not only the introductions to the memorial acclamation and the Great Amen, but the entire eucharistic prayer; where musicians break into spontaneous four part harmony, etc.. However, he was quick to point out that this wasn't reality. We would have to leave and return to our individual communities and minister there.
I'm sure you don't have to be a church musician to recall times in your life with family or friends when you wished that you could just put up three tents where you could keep "the good times rolling" or bottle up the good feelings to save for those "down" days we have. But we all know that those good times are hardly the norm, since we all have to return to our ordinary everyday lives. Rather, they are only brief and fleeting glimpses of the good times that will never end with our family and friends in heaven.
And how about his actions when he attempted to walk on the water? How many times in our own lives have we set out to do something with God's blessing and succeeded, only to delude ourselves into feeling that, "hey, I can do this myself"? Next thing we know, we are failing miserably and asking God to help us out of the mess we've created.
Despite all of these failings, our Lord calls Peter the rock upon which he will build his church. And consider the other original rocks in the church: the apostles. All very ordinary people, mostly fishermen of which there were probably hundreds in our Lord's day just in the area around the Sea of Galilee. So no matter what our failures, weaknesses and even crimes, there is always hope for us. Charles Colson, who was former special assistant to former President Richard Nixon and who spent seven months in prison in 1974 for Watergate-related offenses, wrote the following story.
- As one who has served time in prison and has since spent most of my life working in them, I'll never forget the most unusual prison I've ever visited. Called Humaita Prison, it is in Sao Jose dos Campos in Brazil. Formerly a government prison, it is now operated by Prison Fellowship Brazil as an alternative prison, without armed guards or high-tech security. Humaita has only two full-time staff; the rest of the work is done by the 730 inmates serving time for everything from murder and assault to robbery and drug-related crimes. Every man is assigned another inmate to whom he is accountable. In addition, each prisoner is assigned a volunteer mentor from the outside who works with him during his term and after his release. Prisoners take classes on character development and are encouraged to participate in educational and religious programs.
When I visited this prison, I found the inmates smiling - particularly the murderer who held the keys, opened the gates and let me in. Wherever I walked, I saw men at peace. I saw clean living areas. I saw people working industriously. The walls were decorated with motivational sayings and Scripture. Humaita has an astonishing record. Its recidivism rate is 4 percent, compared to 75 percent in the rest of Brazil. How is that possible? I saw the answer when my inmate guide escorted me to the notorious cell once used for solitary punishment. Today, he told me, it always houses the same inmate. When we reached the end of the long concrete corridor, he put the key into the lock. As he swung open the massive door, I saw the prisoner in that cell: a crucifix, beautifully carved--Jesus, hanging on the cross. "He's doing time for the rest of us," my guide said softly. (1)
We have no idea what eventually happened to the 730 inmates in that prison but we do know that they probably are not in that prison and may have even turned their lives around. And I'm sure that they will never forget who helped them "do time". And we also know for certain that after his own prison stint, Colson himself devoted his life to prison ministry.
So it is that God can use anyone to further the cause of his church: someone like Peter with all of his failures, men as ordinary as fishermen, and even former prisoners. Perhaps even people like us - if we just let him.
1. Perfect Freedom, from Life Sentence by Charles W. Colson. Copyright 1981 by Baker Book House, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516. Reprinted in Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Aubery and Nancy Mitchell-Autio. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.
(Copyright 2008 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com )
Lord Jesus, you are the cornerstone rejected by the builders. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you acclaimed Peter as the rock upon which you would build your church. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you are truly the Son of God. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Peter professed his faith when he proclaimed that Christ was the Son of God. We too confidently proclaim our own faith when we bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, strengthen our faith".
That the leaders of the Church will be examples of faith to their communities, we pray to the Lord.
That those to whom authority has been given will make peace and justice the foundations upon which that authority is exercised, we pray to the Lord.
That the sick, the elderly and all those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will find comfort in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
That the members of our parish community will profess their faith by what they say and by what they do, we pray to the Lord.
That all the students who will soon be returning to school may grow in wisdom, understanding and knowledge during this academic year, we pray to the Lord.
That all of our brothers and sisters will be treated as our equals in the site of God regardless of their race, color, nationality or religion, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Loving Father, through the grace of your Spirit, you enabled Peter to reveal the true identity of your Son. Grant us the grace to always profess our faith in your Son through our good works and thus become rocks upon which your Church is built here on earth. And we ask this through Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen.