(Sunday XXI OT — A) The Keys of the Kingdom
- Reading I: Isaiah 22:19-23
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 138
- Reading II: Romans 11:33-36
- Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:13-20
The Demotion of Shebna and Promotion of Eliakim.The choice of the Old Testament reading was dictated by Jesus’ statement in the gospel selection regarding the "keys of the kingdom" that he gives to Peter, the Rock. The OT background for this emblem is that of the keys of the mayordomo of the king’s palace. Thus the selection from Isaiah 22 which tells of the election of a new mayordomo to replace the corrupt Shebna who has enriched himself with the position. The key that the mayordomo holds symbolizes a position of authority, the highest next to the king. One need only to read the account of the Assyrian envoy sent to Jerusalem to confront King Hezekiah with the allegation of treason. In this tense diplomatic situation, the King of Judah sends three men to meet the envoy: Eliakim, the new mayordomo, Shebna and a scribe. Eliakim "who is over the household" is always listed first in the account of this affair (see. Isaiah 36:3.11.22;37:2).
The responsorial psalm is a prayer to God for continued assistance. Understood in the light of Isaiah 22 where power became the occassion for Shebna’s demotion, Psalm 138 is prayer that one given such a great authority may not become proud himself.
Paul’s Awe Before God’s Wisdom. The reading from Romans 11:33-36 is an exclamation of wonder and praise for the depths of God’s wisdom which is even now manifested in Christ. Paul of course is thinking of the mercy of God as he sees it first offered to the Jews, and rejected by these; offered to the Gentiles, and accepted by them (11:30-31). That "divine mercy" was offered after all has been placed under disobedience so that all can receive God’s mercy (11:32).
But taken of itself apart from the context, the outburst of Paul can also be understood in the light of the gospel selection. Peter, the one who denied Christ three times has become the head of the apostles. Why? Matthew was already hearing the question during his time and so as a response, he rewrote the Marcan account of Peter’s Confession in the light of the apostolic memory he holds. Peter was named "the Rock" upon whom the Church’s faith will find support because of the recognition he accorded to Christ whom he proclaimed "the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." In this sense, one can also marvel at the way certain people are chosen to fulfill certain roles in the household of God.
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