Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 23, 2020
This Sunday’s readings have a common element—Davidic keys as a symbol of authority. The reading from Isaiah narrates that Eliakim is in the line of David and will be called “Father of Jerusalem.” Eliakim will get the authority of David, symbolized by the key upon his shoulder. With it he will open and lock doors.
Matthew 16:13-20 tells of Simon Peter’s testimony that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus calls him Peter and declares that “on this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Jesus promises “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. What you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Later, the passage was interpreted as the power to absolve sins and proof of papal authority. The phrase “binding and loosing” appears in rabbinical discussions about the Law of Moses for centuries before and after the time of Jesus. The evangelist Matthew knew of rabbinical discussions and sees Jesus as a new Moses, who went up the mountain to teach the new Law. Jesus envisioned a relationship of mutual respect and responsibility for all in the Church community.