Homily - Homily for XXI Sunday Year A by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.

23 August 2020 

Homily for XXI Sunday Year A. 23-08-2020 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Isaiah 22:19-23
Psalm: Psalm 137:1-3, 6, 8
Second Reading: Romans 11:33-36
Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20
The first and the most important institution of the Church and arguably the most controversial in the history of Christendom is the papacy. This institution of the office of the pope is the foundation of the Church, and with the Church they constitute moral persons because they proceed not from the will of man but of the divine (Cf.can.113). The foundation stone properly is Peter the apostle whom Christ commissions today in the gospel reading as head over the apostles and thus the first pope of His Church.
Events leading up to the election of Peter today were already set in motion from time immemorial as can be seen even in the first reading. Here we hear the word of the Lord as addressed to the prophet Isaiah where God invests Eliakim with significant authority to take the place of Shebna as master of the king’s palace in Jerusalem. With such authority, he alone could open and close the doors of the palace, which means having control over everything that goes on in the palace without being subject to interference from any quarters. Beyond this the event was foreshadowing a future greater event when Christ would appoint Peter like Eliakim, and make him the head of His new community, the new Jerusalem, the Church as we witness today.
How did this come about? St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, “how rich are the depths of God – how deep His wisdom and knowledge, and how impossible to penetrate His motives or understand His methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord?(Rm.11:33-34).” No one knew the mind of God was to found His Church on Simon a mere man. Jesus hands over the keys of heaven to him saying, ‘whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven. (Matt.16:19).’ The Greek word petra means rock. Today Simon becomes that rock (Peter) upon which Christ would build His church.
God who knows all and has all powers could have founded His Church in any other way to be a more perfect Church, but why choose Peter whom we know is surely not a perfect man? Only God knows. Just two Sundays ago, Jesus called Peter a man of little faith. At another occasion, Peter opposed Christ from going to Jerusalem and was called “Satan.” He promised never to deny Christ even if all do, but he in fact denied Him three times. He was just like all of us human beings, good only because he was created by the good God, but with all the limitations of being human because he is living in a world and body torn by sin. So even though he was a holy man, he sometimes had his humanity get in the way of his divine charge in the mistakes he made. However he never gave up trying to do the will of God, and so the grace of God remained with him. His faith grew with which today he confesses Jesus as the Christ and the Son of the living God. Consequently, his authority was also confirmed at Pentecost by the Holy Spirit. He became ardent in his faith and confessed Christ even to the point of giving up his life.  
Christ who gave that authority to Peter promised that the powers of the underworld can never hold out against His Church and He will be with His Church until the end of time. That is why despite the many tribulations in the Church, the office of Peter continues to subsist in the Church of Christ up to this day in the popes. In the life of Peter therefore we have seen the lives of all the popes after him. Just like Peter they are frail humans but when we consider their human failings, we must not fail to recognise the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives and in the life of the Church. Even when their frailty gets into the way of their responsibility and they give us a poor example of living the faith, the grace of God still abides with them and the Church because of the promise of Christ to His Church. This Church is the body of Christ Himself, and she is guided constantly by the Holy Spirit. Besides, human frailty is not more powerful than Divine Grace. This is why God always chooses the weak to shame the strong.
Our lives too are not different from the lives of these people - as pastors, as parents, as young Christian men and women, as children of God whom God has called and given us a new mission by our baptism. We also like them have our weaknesses. But do you think you are the worst pastor or dad or mom or daughter or son, or worst Christian child because of your failings? Do you consider yourself unworthy of being called a Christian, a Catholic, because you have found yourself in habitual sin? Yes, you are the worst if you chose to remain on the ground. However, know that like Peter you are capable of getting up from your falls. If you fall six times make sure you get up seven times. When you get up and follow the Christ who has called you, then you will realise that you are capable of even greater good than the evil you do. As long as we have faith in the God who is leading us, we will continue to experience the liberating presence of the Lord in the happenings in our lives despite our human limitations and constant failings. This is because God is still interested in us despite our failings and will never abandon us, and indeed to all of us baptized and confirmed He has also given us the mission to build His Church by bringing others to Him. We must allow God to use us to do His work then we will see the wonders He can do through us. Because it is not by power and might, but by His grace.
May the Lord continue to sustain the successor of Peter and us all in the mission He has given us, and grant us the grace to always get up each time we fall. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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