Church aisle facing the altar

Sunday Soundbite for August 27, 2017

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle A

August 27, 2017

 

In 1995, former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara re-ignited debates over the Vietnam War with his book, In Retrospect. In the book, McNamara revisited his role in the American involvement in Vietnam, and concluded that he and other leaders failed to come to grips with the reality of the situation, both at home and in Vietnam. Whether one agrees with McNamara or not, his book is a fascinating study of political leadership.

Today’s Gospel deals with leadership in the Church. Jesus calls Peter “the rock,” on which Christ will build his Church, and he promises Peter the “keys to the kingdom of heaven.”

This Sunday, I suspect many Catholics will think of the papal transition which took place after the death of John Paul II. That event focused the world’s attention on the papacy, and connects directly with this Gospel story.

Matthew’s account reminds us that the Church, while established in the here-and-now, points to a further reality. Our faith is incarnational–it is rooted in both the human and the divine. Unfortunately, we often concentrate on the human aspects: The temporal business of the Church sometimes preoccupies all of us, including our leaders. The challenge of God’s Word today is to keep a “heavenly” perspective in our understanding of leadership and service—for all who have that role in the Church.