The key to heaven
February 22, 2020
7th Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: 1 P 5:1–4
Gospel: Mt 16:13–19
Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked his disciples, “What do people say of the Son of Man? Who do they say I am?” They said, “For some of them you are John the Baptist, for others Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.
“And now I say to you: You are Peter (or Rock) and on this rock I will build my Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and what you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”
(Daily Gospel in the Assimilated Life Experience)
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus empowers Peter by symbolically handing over to him the key of the Kingdom. This is not the only instance in the Bible that makes use of a key as symbol of empowerment. In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we already read about putting on someone’s shoulders the key to the House of David (Isaiah 22:22). The Book of Revelation also cites a message coming from the holy and faithful one “who has the key to David’s house so that when he opens nobody can close and when he closes nobody can open” (Rev. 3:7).
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus gives Peter the key to the kingdom of heaven as symbol of his desire to empower him as the rock foundation of his Church. “Church” in Hebrew is “Qahal” which is “Ekklesia” in Greek. It was used to refer to the community of the chosen people especially the remnants of the desert community such as the Essenes of Qumran. In today’s Gospel Jesus uses the term to refer to the community under the covenant to be sealed with his Blood. By using the term “Church” (verse 18) in conjunction with the term “kingdom of heaven” (verse 19), Jesus exposed his desire that the heavenly kingdom should begin here on earth as an organized society founded on Peter as head (see footnotes at the Jerusalem Bible).
Peter had died but left his chair (symbol of his authority) to the popes governing the Church. Popes like Peter err because they are human. But in the exercise of that authority inherited from Peter they are infallible. We refer to this infallible office of teaching by whoever sits at the Chair of St. Peter as the Magisterium. The Lord provided for this to make sure that his people gets to heaven to form that eschatological community in the kingdom of God. –(Atty.) Rev. Fr. Dan Domingo P. delos Angeles, Jr., JD, DM, MAPM.
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