Saturday, August 20, 2011

Twenty-First Sunday Year A : Reflections- Fr. Michael U.Udoekpo

Twenty-First Sunday of Year A: Reflections- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 22:19-23; Ps 138:1-3, 6, 8; Rom 11:33-36 and Matt 16:13-20

Authority and Faith Rooted in Christ – Jesus

Christ throughout his ministry would reflect on earlier prophetic messages and traditions. With it he teaches us forgiveness, love, serviceable authority, profession of faith and reliance in God, manifested in him.

 In Matthew’s Gospel today, Jesus uses similar terminology of foundational promises and metaphors found in the Prophet Isaiah 22 to remind religious, family and civil leaders, as well as all Christians, what is expected of every true disciple of Christ.

The First Reading draws the contrast between two court officials during the time of Hezekiah: Shebna and Eliakim. Shabna was irresponsible, faithless, abusive, unstable, pompous and selfish (Isa 22:1-18) hence demoted and  disgraced out of office (v 19). He was replaced with Eliakim, a servant of the Lord (v 20), a father to the people (v 21), dependable and solid like a peg. Like Peter in the Gospel, Eliakim is given the symbols of power, the keys of the house of David (v 23). Keys of responsibilities including even forgiveness of ourselves and others.

Forgiveness, because the same inconsistent Peter who even denied Christ during his trials bounces back in faith. Today Peter is able to recognize Jesus, who is “Christ, the Son of the Living God, (Matt 16:16).”   With this recognition Peter and his successors “Popes” are not only symbolically confirmed the “rock” (petra/petros/cephas), upon which Christ’s Church shall be built, but they are entrusted with the symbolic keys of “authority delegations” of the kingdom of God (vv 18-19).

It is a delegation of love, a delegation of selfless service to all. It is a delegation to exercise all the values of the Kingdom of God, guided by the true Wisdom of God, who from him and through him and for him all things are made (Rom 11:33-36).

 Rocks, repeated metaphors in today's readings in rural African families are used for multiple purposes. They are used to crack or produce kernels (from palms) sold for economic livelihood  of many families.  Globally they are used in most cultures for homes, offices’ ,and road’s  constructions with bridges - that support and sustain nations and society. Bridges of unity, ecumenism, inter religious or cultural dialogue. If I may add, some parents have also in certain traditions and culture, named their children “rock”,   =the foundation of their families.

Eliakim was a “Peg” at a time and Peter was a “Rock” name by Christ, for a new mission. Like Peter and Eliakim we are constantly been called to be renewed and transformed servants, pegs and dependable rocks of our communities, families, parishes, institutions and faith traditions. We are invited to put our faith and trust in God relying always upon God’s strength not just on ourselves.

Even though we live in a time of religious and hermeneutical pluralisms when the teachings of the Church, our faith, the Gospel message with Petrine Office, expressed in the Pope, are constantly been challenged, today’s readings invite us to renew our faith not only in Christ, the Son of the Living God,” but in the one Church,  the family of God’s people, entrusted to the successors of Peter.

This is not the time for finger- pointing at various leaders and authorities, but more of moment for personal, reflection on our  various leadership roles,  beginning from our homes, families, schools and factories, public and private places, religious and civil institutions, where we have once found ourselves.

The outcome of our reflections might vary, yet Scriptures remind us to adapt Peter's discipleship- model, once weak but strengthen and renewed again in Christ. He knew who he was! He comes back to professing  faith in Jesus, allowing himself to be nourished and sustained by him, " Christ ,Son of the Living God," and the true source of  genuine authority and leadership characterize of service  with promotion of common good.