Homily Twenty-First Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo· Isaiah 22:19-23;
· Ps 138:1-3, 6, 8;
· Rom 11:33-36
· Matthew 16:13-20
A God of Surprise and Giver of Keys Of Responsibilities
Many of us do not like to be surprised, except with anniversary gifts! But our God is a God of surprises. To be surprised implies that we have surrendered at least some of our autonomy(ies). It means events, wonders and amazements have taken place in which we have little or no control, but only to trust in God. Many of such events abound in our lives. In those moments, God is at work. He creates and recreates. He admonishes sinners and welcomes the repentant. He can make king and has the power too to bring kings down. He promotes and demotes. He changes sufferings into joy, failures into success, illness into good health, and death into life. This is true when we take a closer look into today’s Bible lessons. The Lord entrusted us with the keys to join in building the kingdom.In the first reading (Isa 22:19-23), there is a contrast drawn between two court officials during the time of Hezekiah. They were Shebna and Eliakim. Shabna was irresponsible, building a tomb for himself, faithless, abusive, unstable, pompous and selfish (Isa 22:1-18). As a result he was disgraced out of office (v 19). God surprisingly replaces him with Eliakim, whom he calls his servant (v 20). Eliakim is a father to the people (v 21), dependable and solid like a peg. What a surprise from Shebna to Eliakim! We are invited to be servants of God and of one another.
Above all during prayers we are challenged to believe in a God of surprises. He surprises us through others and through daily events and circumstances. Some of them may initially look ugly. But don’t lose the mystery of hope. Saint Paul reechoes this surprising nature of God in the second reading (Rom 11:33-36) when he says: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom, and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways.”Similar elements of divine surprises occur in Matthew’s Gospel today. Who would have thought that the same would-be “Denying Peter,” during the Passion Week would surprisingly get the answer put by Christ, “who do people think that I am.” Surprisingly, ahead of other disciples, Peter got it. He professed Christ as the Son of the living God (matt 16:6). As a result, and like Eliakim who was given the symbols of power, the keys of the house of David in the first reading (Isa 22:23), Peter is divinely entrusted with the keys of responsibilities: to lead, love, forgive and preach faith and hope. He is pastorally blessed and confirmed as the rock upon which Christ’s Church shall be built (vv.18-19).
Each of us has role to play in using the keys entrusted to us by God for the service of God and our neighbors. We are to be a rock and a pillar for one another!Metaphorically, rocks 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. Rocks are also used in most cultures for homes, offices’, road or bridge constructions to support and sustain nations and society. In another sense, they are used to build bridges of unity, forgiveness, reconciliation, and ecumenism, inter- religious or cultural dialogue and peace much needed today in our world! O course, God is the "Rock of all Ages."
I know when we experience wars, threats of terrorism, tragedies, civil unrest and other forms of disorientation, we often succumb to the fallacy that God is not really interested in our affairs and concerns. We may feel that we are not persons, only numbers in a gigantic universe. Like Peter and his successors including Pope Francis, in particular, we are encouraged to trust in God. We are invited to be our neighbor’s and planet’s rock of hope and support. We are called to be the rock, keys, and the pillars for our neighboring poor, the immigrants, the rejected, the homeless, the voiceless, the sick, the needy and the suffering of our generations.
1. Do you see yourself in Shebna, Eliakim, or Peter in today’ readings?
2. How have you been using your keys and your assigned responsibilities to foster dialogue, unity, protect the planet, family values, love and empowerment of the poor and marginalized of your faith community?
3. Name one or two ways you have used the pillars and the rocks of your gifts to give glory and thanks to God’s name.