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Sunday August 24, 2008 – 21st Sunday in OT

Scripture Readings
First Is 22:19-23
Second Romans 11:33-36
Gospel Mt 16:33-36

Prepared by: Fr. Jonathan Kalisch, OP

1. Subject Matter

The encounter with Christ – the meeting – forces all to take a stand vis-à-vis who He is and what
He means in their lives.

2. Exegetical Notes
• Caesarea Philippi is located north of the Sea of Galilee, in the territory of Dan, where Enoch
also had the divine mysteries of heaven revealed to him (1 Enoch 12-16). It is also the site
where Herod the Great built a temple to Caesar Augustus, and even earlier was a site of
Baal cultic worship.
• Mt. 16:16 – This is the first time that one of the disciples refers to Jesus as the Messiah in
MT. The expression “Son of the living God” corrects any false impressions of the Messiah by
focusing on Jesus’ unique consciousness of the Father – Son relationship. It also contrasts
with the idolatrous associations of the area.
• In Mt 16:17, “revealed” indicates the divine disclosure of an eschatological secret.
• Peter, like Abram, is given a new name. Until this point, there is no evidence of anyone ever
being named “rock” in Aramaic or Greek, and was not used as a proper name by first century
Jews in Palestine.
• In Mt 23:13, it is the scribes and Pharisees who shut the kingdom of heaven. Peter’s role is
akin to that of Eliakim in the royal palace.
• The promise is that God shall bind and loose what Peter first binds and looses. These
technical rabbinic terms refer to binding the devil in exorcism, and the juridical acts of
excommunication and of definitive decision-making.

3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

• CCC # 153: “When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God,
Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come ‘from flesh and blood’, but from ‘my
Father who is in heaven’. Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. ‘Before
this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he
must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God,
who opens the eyes of the mind and 'makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'”
• CCC # 440: “Jesus accepted Peter's profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the
Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man.(40) He unveiled the
authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of
Man "who came down from heaven", and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant:
"The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for
• CCC #546: Jesus' invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a
characteristic feature of his teaching. Through his parables he invites people to the feast of
the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give
everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for man:
will he be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use has he made of the talents he has
received?(265) Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart
of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to
"know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven". For those who stay "outside", everything
remains enigmatic.”
• CCC # 553: “The "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the house of God, which
is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection:
"Feed my sheep."(288) The power to "bind and loose" connotes the authority to absolve sins,
to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus
entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles(289) and in
particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the
keys of the kingdom.”

4. Patristic Commentary
• Chrysostom: “On this faith and confession I will build my Church. Herein shewing that many
should believe what Peter had confessed, and raising his understanding, and making him His
• Origen: See how great power has that rock upon which the Church is built, that its sentences
are to continue firm as though God gave sentence by it.
• Jerome: Bishops and Presbyters, not understanding [p. 588] this passage, assume to
themselves something of the lofty pretensions of the Pharisees, and suppose that they may
either condemn the innocent, or absolve the guilty; whereas what will be enquired into before
the Lord will be not the sentence of the Priests, but the life of him that is being judged.
We read in Leviticus of the lepers, how they are commanded to shew themselves to the
Priests; and if they have the leprosy, then they are made unclean by the Priest; not that the
Priest makes them leprous and unclean, but that the Priest has knowledge of what is leprosy
and what is not leprosy, and can discern who is clean, and who is unclean. In the same way
then as there the Priest makes the leper unclean, here the Bishop or Presbyter binds or
looses not those who are without sin, or guilt, but in discharge of his function when he has
heard the varieties of their sins, he knows who is to be bound, and who loosed.”
5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars


• Pope Benedict XVI: “Jesus is setting out on the journey to the Cross and issuing a call to
decision that now clearly distinguished the group of disciples from the people who merely
listen, without accompanying him on his way.”
• Pope Benedict XVI: “There is an external knowledge of Jesus that, while not necessarily
false, is inadequate. On the other hand, there is a deeper knowledge that is linked to
discipleship, to participation in Jesus’ way, and such knowledge can grow only in that
• Pope John Paul II: “We need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in
the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises
or the temptation of self-deception.”
• Luigi Giussani: “Peter, in ushi usual impulsive way, spoke out, probably repeating
something he had heard Jesus himself say, although he had not fully grasped its significance
…Peter had already understood the evidence on which his own opinion of Jesus was based:
‘If I cannot trust this man I cannot even trust myself.’”
• Luigi Giussani: Jesus “identifies himself as the reason for placing their lives on the line, as
the very foundation for the relationships which constitute the core of our freedom…But he
only does so when the consciences around him have already formulated decisive opinions
about him. For God tends to give value to the position our freedom has already assumed.
God seconds a decision our freedom has already made and forces it to reveal more clearly
what it is willing to do. When one’s freedom is disinclined, when it adopts a closed attitude,
everything that happens encourages it to close itself even more and vice versa.”

Recommended Resources
Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI, ed. by Peter John Cameron, OP. Magnificat,
Peter John Cameron, OP, To Praise, to Bless, to Preach, Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.,
Luigi Giussani, At the Origin of the Christian Claim, trans. Viviane Hewitt, Buffalo: McGill-
Queen’s University Press, 1998.
Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, The Gospel of Matthew, Sacra Pagina Series, Vol. 1, ed. by Daniel J.
Harrington. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991.
The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 8, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995.
The New Jerusalem Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, Roland
Murphy, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990.