Ordinary Time 21

This homily was not delivered, but simply published here.

This weekend is for me a Maronite Mass Weekend at Tequesta, Fl

Isaiah 22, 19-23 + Psalm 138 + Roman 11, 33-36 + Matthew 16, 13-20

This is the same Peter “of little” faith who jumped out of a boat two weeks ago and had to be pulled up and put back in the boat. It is the same Peter who, on a dark night, insists that he “never know the man”. It is the same Peter who is accused of being drunk, then throws open doors and windows proclaiming that “Everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.” Peter’s is a story of faith that grows slowly from self-doubt and confusion to rock solid courage. It is a story of how bravado and grandiosity transform into audacity and absolute commitment to the message and person of Jesus Christ. It is the story of how Peter learned from Jesus that power was given for service not for prestige or control. It is the story of Peter’s gradual discovery about what those keys he was given were for; not to lock out but to open up. It is the story of how Peter begins to understand that binding and loosing are not opposites, as legalists might want to suggest. They are, in fact, old rabbinical terms for “permit” and “forgive.”

It is Jesus Christ who speaks in this church today. The Word we just proclaimed is alive and present here. He speaks to us as he did Peter aware of our inconsistent and perhaps “little faith.” Just as he chose Peter to lead, to teach, and to sanctify, he now speaks to us the same words. Never mind that we get things wrong sometimes, that we are given to denial when means standing up for someone or something. Never mind that sometimes our actions do not match our words. What does matter is that we have stood up on our feet and been addressed by Jesus Christ. What  he entrusts to Peter, he gives to us all, because we are church, and this church is not better or worse than any single one of us.

We have been entrusted with the keys. We can either use them to lock out or to open up, to lock our hearts or open our hearts. We can either use them to include others or exclude others, and if do, we should be careful about which side of the gate we are standing on when we turn the key. We, the church, have been given the power, or we might better call it, the “grace” to bind and loose. Why we always want to think these are opposites is curious, and not a thought in our favor. Instead of always thinking that “binding” means refusing to forgive, we might consider the idea that binding mean holding or tying someone to us, to the church, or to Jesus Christ as the way an old Irish hymn sings out: “I bind unto myself this day, the strong name of the Trinity.” This is the only kind of binding that Jesus knew and practiced. He never left anyone in sin. He never left anyone wanting for forgiveness. He bound those people to himself, and that is the kind of binding we must be about as people who have inherited the keys. We have some growing to do. Let us be about it.

Father Tom Boyer