Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
You are Peter, and I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
The Word This Week
There is a very simple theme to this Sundays readings: it is the principle of authority in the community of the Church: we are introduced to the idea that God gives authority to someone in the first reading, where Shebna is dismissed by God and replaced. This is a prelude to the Gospel story of Peter being given authority: not because he is powerful or wise in the worlds sense, but because he was able to profess his faith in the one sent by the Father. This is the principle of all authority in the Church: it is to spring only from God and our faith in God, professed by our way of life and rooted only in Christ, for to him all authority, in heaven and on earth, has been given.
Notes for Readers
Shebnas job was steward or master of the palace, a position of great authority. he had, however, abused this authority, and so is to be replaced with Eliakim, who will act with justice and integrity. To understand how to read this, look at the Gospel and see the parallels between the two appointments - especially the reference to keys, and the lines should he open, no one shall close, and whatever you loose on earth.... The tone of the reading is quite stern and formal: it might be effective if (without going over the top) you read in a rather formal manner - as an official delivering an edict. You might want to imagine how Isaiah delivered the message in the Palace around the year 700 B.C. Be careful with uncommon words like robe and sash - as a general rule, the less common a word is, the easier it is for the listeners to miss it.
Paul, after the passionate outbursts of the last two weeks, seems to end this section of the letter by pouring out everything in an exultant hymn of praise today. In a sense, there is no great meaning to be unearthed in this reading - it is simply praise of God, such as we find in the Psalms. It is almost poetic. So read it without worrying: simply enter Pauls mind and heart. He is so filled with the love and knowledge of God that it overflows from his pen uncontrollably! Underline the three phrases at the beginning: How rich...how deep...how impossible Allow the questions to resonate in the minds of your listeners, and end (as Paul does) with the triumphant glorification of God and the Amen.