Shikrot Mpwi – Sunday Synopsis with Fr. Justine J. Dyikuk
Twenty First Sunday of the Year, A – August 27, 2023
Readings: Isaiah 22:19-23; Responsorial Psalm Ps 137:1-3,6,8; Rom 11:33-36 & Gospel Matthew 16:18.
Theme: Divine Endorsement!
The first reading tells how God removed Shebna as Master of the Palace and appointed Eliakim son of Hilkiah by presenting him with a key as a symbol of authority to unite the inhabitants of both Jerusalem and Judah. In the second reading, St. Paul reveals that the depths of God are rich and his wisdom and knowledge deep. The gospel reading discloses how Christ founded the Catholic Church by giving St. Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, you are invited to be part of the true Church, enjoy the power of forgiveness, respect the Church’s authority, develop a positive perception of God, build a personal and ecclesial faith and pray for your priests.
Friends in Christ, today we are exposed to the apostolic foundations of the Church and its divine endorsement. Perhaps many Catholics do not know who they are, what they represent or where they come from in terms of committed-membership in or to the Church. Our liturgy clears the doubts of everyone about the Church’s divine beginnings and Christ’s abiding presence in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church he established.
Background and Summary of the Readings
In the first reading (Isaiah 22:19-23), the Lord uproots Shebna, the Master of the Palace and appoints Eliakim son of Hilkiah by giving him authority to be a father to the inhabitants of both Jerusalem and the House of Judah. To authenticate this appointment, the Lord gave Eliakim the key of the House of David while stressing that should he open, no one should close; should he close, no one should open.
The second reading (Rom 11:33-36) reveals that the depths of God are rich. It also states that his wisdom and knowledge are deep even as his motives and methods are impenetrable. Therein St. Paul asserts that no one knows the mind of God as he does not consult anyone. While stating that no one has ever given him anything, the Apostle surmises that all that exists come from him; is by him and for him.
The gospel (Matthew 16:18) takes us back in history to when Christ founded the Church by presenting St. Peter with the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Therein, Jesus assured of his divine presence in the Church. It would be recalled that the formal date for the beginning of what we know and have today as the Catholic Church is on Pentecost Sunday (33 AD).
Four Marks of the Church
1. The Church is One: The Church is one because its founder is one (Trinitarian Godhead). This oneness is expressed in liturgical form through common prayers and an expression of the unity of faith. The scriptures attests to this oneness: “There is one Body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
2. The Church is Holy: The Church is holy because the Lord who founded it is holy. This is why the bible says: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:15). He also left the Church with seven sacraments (baptism, Holy Eucharist, confirmation, confession, anointing of the sick, matrimony and Holy Orders) as means of attaining holiness.
3. The Church is Catholic: The Church is Catholic because it spreads across the world. Catholic means universal – it means that the Church does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, nationality or gender. Its mission is both domestic and universal in character hence mission ad intra and mission ad extra. That the Church is Catholic means she is a mother that accommodates all her children throughout the world irrespective of their race, gender or social standing.
4. The Church is Apostolic: The Church is founded on the apostles (Cf. Matthew 18:18; 16:18). The apostolicity of the Church spans through 2020 years – From St. Peter to the current Pope Francis through the bishops who are the direct successors of the apostles, only the Catholic Church has maintained an unbroken apostolic succession. This is why the Church enjoys divine credibility based on the divine mandate given to her by Christ to forge ahead as an institution geared towards the salvation of souls. The salvation of souls is the supreme law – salus animarum suprema lex (Canon 1752 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law).
1. Be Part of the True Church: Just as almost everything has original and fake, our liturgy clears our doubts about the true Church which Christ founded over 2000 years ago by revealing how God placed a key on the shoulder of Eliakim and Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom thus revealing the Catholic Church as the winning team of Christ which not only enjoys the four marks of a true Church namely One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic but the human institution which enjoys divine authority.
2. Enjoy the Power of Forgiveness: By giving the Apostles authority to bind or loose (Matthew 16:19), in the tribunal of God’s unfathomable mercy and forgiveness, Christ gives the Church (our priests) the power to forgive sins through sacred ordination and urges God’s people to happily embrace the sacrament of reconciliation for healing of mind, body and spirit towards salvation.
3. Respect the Church’s Authority: Our liturgy teaches us to respect the authority of the Church because she enjoys divine authority established on Christ the rock which further implies that no human power can destroy it. The saying: “The Church is like a rock, if you fight it, it will crush you and if it fights you, it will crush you” comes to mind – whichever way it goes, the Church is always a winner not because of its human-handlers but because it is divinely instituted which is why Christ said: “The gates of the underworld will never hold out against it” (Matthew 16:18).
4. Develop a Positive Perception of God: While the question of who Jesus is to you as an individual is directed to each and every one of us, it equally reminds us that our perception of God, either good or bad, is capable of deeply affecting our relationship with him – which means that we have to cultivate a positive perception of who God is to us as individuals.
5. Build a Personal and Communal Faith: Peter’s profession of faith reveals that he spoke from personal conviction and as the leader of the apostles which invites us to also develop a faith that is based on personal conviction and ecclesial in terms of being part of the various pious societies in Church where the fullest expression of the faith is expressed and nourished.
1. In the first reading, the Lord uproots Shebna, the master of the palace and appoints Eliakim son of Hilkiah.
2. The second reading reveals that the depths of God are rich.
3. While stating that no one has ever given him anything, the Apostle [Paul] surmises that all exist comes from him, is by him and for him.
4. The gospel takes us back in history to Christ who founded the Church giving St. Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
5. Therein, Jesus assured of his divine presence in the Church.
Although our Church was the first ecclesial institution to be founded by Christ until Martin Luther broke away on 31 October 1517, some 503 years ago, we are urged to be humble while working our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) even as pray for priests. Ministers of the word and sacraments are also enjoined to preach about the importance of the most neglected sacrament namely, the sacrament of reconciliation while urging all to embrace the tribunal of God’s unfathomable mercy.
As contemporary disciples, we are challenged to guard against wolves (Matthew 7:15) who are intent on shaming the Church. Like St. Peter, a committed personal and ecclesial profession of faith is capable of making us relish the unction of Holy Spirit in the Church which enjoys divine endorsement and apostolic foundations. May this realization assist us in living worthy lives so as to attain eternal life. Amen. Have a terrific week ahead!