21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Published: August 24, 2014

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at Our Lady of the Nazareth Church in Roanoke, Va., on Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014.

Bishop Taylor

If you're like me, you have a bunch of car keys, house keys and keys to the office. Keys give power and access to those who have the key and deny access to those who don't. 

In today's Gospel we have the famous story of the keys. Peter has discovered the key to understanding who Jesus is: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" and Jesus responds by giving him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever he binds or looses on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven. These two are keys represented on the Vatican flag: the silver key represents the pope's authority on earth as the successor of Peter and the gold key represents his authority in heaven. And by the way, the flag is yellow and white, which reminds us that we are to be the light of the world — the yellow part — and the salt of the earth — the white part. 

But let's get back to the keys because there's more: like with the computer in my home, it's not enough to enter my house and turn on my computer. You also have to know the password, which I have to reveal to you — you wouldn't be able to figure it out on your own. That revealed knowledge is another kind of key, a key that opens up for us a whole new world, gives us access to the world of the Internet. 

Most Americans no longer believe in an all-powerful God capable of creating win-win situations that benefit everyone.

In the case of the Church founded by Jesus on the rock of Peter's faith, that key of revealed truth is the source of the magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church. Of all the disciples in today's Gospel, Peter was the only one who got it right and yet not even he figured it out on his own: it was revealed to him by God.

Jesus said: "Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father ..." Peter not only has the keys to heaven and earth, the power to loose and bind, he also has been given the key to understanding who Jesus is: "the Christ, the Son of the Living God". 

This is the source of Peter's teaching authority and that of his successors. Jesus doesn't just build his Church on Peter the man he has chosen, he also builds it on the rock of Peter's faith ... and thus also on all who share and teach that faith, on all who profess with Peter that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God" — and especially today Pope Francis, whose magisterium continues that of Peter.

He has been given the key which empowers him to teach God's truth with special, and at times infallible, authority. But not just to him; also to the college of bishops who as successors of the apostles have a privileged share in that teaching authority and obligation. 

Including me in Little Rock or when invited to speak — with Bishop DiLorenzo's approval — here at Our Lady of Nazareth, as I will be doing on the topic of immigration this evening. And of course Bishop DiLorenzo himself. And we do so in union with all of you, the laity who profess that same faith in Jesus and in his teachings, union with Peter, in union with the pope.

Therefore it should be no surprise that those who do not have this key are at quite a disadvantage, sort of left out in the dark, without that privileged access to the truth that will set them free. We see this especially in today's immoral, secular society. And we see it in so many issues — like immigration — that have become contentious due to ignorance and fear. 

Most Americans no longer believe in an all-powerful God capable of creating win-win situations that benefit everyone. Instead, many have become so insecure and fearful that they now think of life as a zero-sum game, where if someone benefits it will probably be at my expense. Many people choose to close their eyes and so remain willfully ignorant of the truth because they fear it may inconvenience them, and so refuse to open their hearts to the way of truth and life, to which we have been given the key ... and so have no future, at least not a very appealing future so long as their hearts remain hard. But evil will not prevail in the end. 

After all, what does Jesus say about the future of the Church he is founding on Peter? "The gates of hell"  the devil, the forces of evil, of ignorance and blindness and fear and greed and insecurity — "shall not prevail against it!"