Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
August 27, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.








O God, who cause the minds of the faithful
to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what you command
and to desire what you promise,
that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading Is 22:19-23 1

Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace: "I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim's shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family."

Responsorial Psalm Ps 138:1-2,2-3,6,8


R. Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,

for you have heard the words of my mouth;

in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;

I will worship at your holy temple. R/.

I will give thanks to your name,

because of your kindness and your truth:

When I called, you answered me;

you built up strength within me.  R/.

The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees,

and the proud he knows from afar.

Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;

forsake not the work of your hands.  R/.

Second Reading Rom 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that he may be repaid? For from him and through him and for him are all things.  To him be glory forever. Amen.

Alleluia Mt 16:18


Gospel Mt 16:13-20 

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  And so I say to you, you are Peter,and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Catena Nova

Now Peter was inclined to be severe, so if he had also been impeccable what forbearance would he have shown toward those he instructed? His falling into sin was thus a providential grace to teach him from experience to deal kindly with others…. He fell into sin so that remembering his own fault and the Lord's forgiveness, he also might forgive others out of love for them.... Mercifully, however, Jesus forgave him his sin, because he knew that Peter, being a man, was subject to human frailty. Now, as I said before, the reason God’s plan permitted Peter to sin was because he was to be entrusted with the whole people of God, and sinlessness added to his severity might have made him unforgiving toward his brothers and sisters. He fell into sin so that remembering his own fault and the Lord's forgiveness, he also might forgive others out of love for them. This was God's providential dispensation. He to whom the Church was to be entrusted, he, the pillar of the churches, the harbor of faith, was allowed to sin; Peter, the teacher of the world, was permitted to sin, so that having been forgiven himself he would be merciful to others (St. John Chrysostom) 

Peter comes from the word for a rock in exactly the same way as the name Christian comes from Christ. Before his passion the Lord Jesus, as you know, chose those disciples of his whom he called apostles. Among these it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given the privilege of representing the whole Church. It was in the person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear, “To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” After all, it is not just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its unity. So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged pre-eminence, that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when he was told, “To you I am entrusting,” what has in fact been entrusted to all (St. Augustine).

The Church is called Catholic or universal because it has spread throughout the entire world, from one end of the earth to the other. Again, it is called Catholic because it teaches fully and unfailingly all the doctrines which ought to be brought to our knowledge, whether concerned with visible or invisible things, with the realities of heaven or the things of earth. Another reason for the name Catholic is that the Church brings under religious obedience all classes of men, rulers and subjects, learned and unlettered. Finally, it deserves the title Catholic because it heals and cures unrestrictedly every type of sin that can be committed in soul or in body, and because it possesses within itself every kind of virtue that can be named, whether exercised in actions or in words or in some kind of spiritual charism. (St. Cyril of Jerusalem).

Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that he has given to others what he has not refused to bestow on them....The authority vested in this power passed also to the other apostles, and the institution established by this decree has been continued in all the leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter received it separately in trust because he is the prototype set before all the rulers of the Church. (Pope St. Leo the Great)

God has given us no other foundation of our salvation, our perfection and our glory: “for other foundation no man can lay but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus” (1 Cor 3:11). Every house which is not built upon this firm Rock, is founded on the shifting sands and will inevitably fall, sooner or later. Every soul who is not united with Christ, as a branch to the stem of the vine, will fall off, wither and become fit only for the fire. If we are in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ in us, we need not fear damnation; neither Angels in Heaven, nor men on earth, neither demons in hell, nor any other creature, can harm us because they cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort)

It is important to note how the weakness of Peter [and of Paul] clearly shows that the Church is founded upon the infinite power of grace (cf. Mt 16:17; 2 Cor 12:7-10). Peter, immediately after receiving his mission, is rebuked with unusual severity by Christ, who tells him: "You are a hindrance to me" (Mt 16:23). How can we fail to see that the mercy which Peter needs is related to the ministry of that mercy which he is the first to experience? (Pope St. John Paul II)

The Church always needs to be reformed, repaired. We certainly do not feel like rocks, but only like small stones. However, no small stone is useless; indeed, in Jesus’ hands the smallest stone becomes precious, because he picks it up, gazes at it with great tenderness, fashions it with his Spirit, and positions it in the right place that he had always had in mind and where it can be more useful to the whole structure. Each of us is a small stone, but in Jesus’ hands participates in the building of the Church. And all of us, as small as we are, are rendered “living stones” because when Jesus takes his stone in hand, he makes it his own; he infuses it with life, full of life, full of life from the Holy Spirit, full of life from his love. And thus we have a place and a mission in the Church: she is a community of life, made up of very many stones, all different, which form a single edifice as a sign of fraternity and communion (Pope Francis).


I distinctly remember the day Pope Paul VI canonized the first American-born saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton.  The reason being he recorded a message to American Catholics for the occasion which was played during Mass that Sunday.  It was startling to hear his voice for the first time, as popes had a rather distant, ethereal, aspect to them.  As I recall Paul made only three foreign trips: to the Holy Land, to the United Nations where he made his famous plea, "No more war, war never again war!" and to the Philippines.
Then burst on to the world stage Pope John Paul II who anyone could see in person who wished given his 104 foreign trips.  I shook his hand myself (kissed it, truth be told) on three occasions, in Toronto and twice in Rome.  Critics of the globetrotting pontiff noted he wasn't home enough to "mind the store."
Now we have Francis who at last count has made 43 international trips with Mongolia coming up later this week.  His critics have been troubled by Francis' airplane press conferences on the way back home and his many interviews given to various media outlets when, at times, his comments have made for sensationalist headlines.  But even his official acts and teaching have often been met with disdain.  This past week he announced a second part to his encyclical on the environment.  When a Vatican spokesman spoke to reporters about it, one Catholic news outlet known for snide comments about the pope, opined how, "He did not say what expertise the Pope would bring to the discussion of meteorological phenomena" (Catholic Culture; August 21, 2023).
More divisively, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of Francis' most outspoken critics, wrote in a foreword to a new publication on the upcoming Synod of Bishops how "a revolution is at work to change radically the Church’s self-understanding, in accord with a contemporary ideology which denies much of what the Church has always taught and practiced.” By contrast, the Cardinal affirmed what he called “the unchanging and unchangeable doctrine and discipline of the Church, [which] can address effectively the situation by uncovering the ideology at work, by correcting the deadly confusion and error and division it is propagating, and by inspiring the members of the Church to undertake the true reform” (Crux, August 23, 2023)
Which got me to thinking about another pope whose feast day was celebrated this past week, Pope St. Pius X — often pointed to as a paragon of Catholic orthodoxy and a bulwark against incursions against the faith.  Among that pontiff's targets were Catholic biblical scholars who were beginning — very tentatively — to employ new methods to the study and interpretation of Scripture.  At one point Pius “declare[d] and decree[d] that all are bound in conscience to submit to the decisions of the Biblical Commission relating to doctrine, which have been given in the past and which shall be given in the future…. nor can all those escape the note of disobedience or temerity, and consequently of grave sin, who in speech or writing contradict such decisions…” And for those who did, he prescribed automatic excommunication only the he could lift (Praestantia Scripturae; November 18, 1907).
And what do we find among the decisions of the Biblical Commission? I'll mention just two: that Moses was the chief author of the Pentateuch and that the first three chapters of Genesis contain accounts of actual events which correspond to historical truth.  I could go on and on about once proscribed views now taken for granted — I suspect even by Cardinal Burke — for which no threats of excommunication are being made by the present, or any future pope, toward those who hold them.
It all makes one think if Joseph Stalin were to ask again, “How many divisions does the Pope have?” we’d have to say, “Quite a few.” (Though that’s not what he was getting at).  Indeed, when Catholics point to Jesus’ words, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,” in support of their belief about the pope’s unique role in the church, you might just wonder how solid that rock is.  After all, Jesus didn’t say whether “Peter” was made of hard granite or softer graphite.  The word kepha in Jesus’ Aramaic language could mean rock or stone.  I suspect those who first heard the nickname given to Simon the fisherman would think Jesus meant the latter.
This was, after all, Peter.  By his own admission, he thought Jesus made a poor choice (cf. Lk. 5:8).  The same Peter we saw two weeks ago almost drown in the Sea of Galilee for his lack of faith.  No Rock of Gibraltar he!  Then, of course, there’s that little matter of a threefold denial – from someone who said he was ready to die with Christ.  All of which makes Peter’s commission so puzzling.  Even if he had a sudden inspiration from on high when he blurted out, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, I can imagine the other apostles thinking there’d better be a spare set of those famous keys of the kingdom of heaven (G).
So when people wonder about Peter’s successor, whether he’s got it right or not, whether he’s the right man for the job or not, well, that’s been going on from the start.  And for good reason.  Which is why I’m not crazy about the “superstar” model of the papacy -- no matter who’s sitting in Peter’s chair. 
Of course, we all gravitate toward our favorites.  But I think it’s enough if we simply let Peter be Peter – a rock, yes, but not always as solid as we might hope, any more than the original was.  Which is why we believe Peter’s authority lies not in flesh and blood, but our Father in heaven – the only infallible source of truth.  And yes, Peter does reliably witness to this truth, but let’s face it, history tells us some popes might well be found fumbling with keys to the gates of hell rather than the pearly gates.  
Along these lines, you might have noticed how the first reading compares Peter to an Old Testament figure: someone called Eliakim who replaced a discredited fellow named Shebna as major domo in the palace of King Hezekiah of Judah.  Isaiah called him a peg in a secure place (I).  Something like calling Simon a rock. What the first reading doesn’t tell you is how just a few verses later it is said of Eliakim, who was given the keys to the house of DavidThe peg fixed in a firm place shall give way, break off and fall, and the weight that hung on it shall be done away with (Is. 22:25).
All of which reminds us the truly secure place is a church against which the gates of the netherworld will not prevail (G), and not any given steward of God’s household.  For, after all, who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?  From him and through him and for him are all things.  To him be glory forever. Amen (II).


Intercessions (Joe Milner; The Sunday Website)

For all who follow Jesus: that Christ will unite us in witnessing to the Gospel, in better understanding of each other, and in working together in helping those who are suffering.

For Pope Francis, successor to St. Peter: that the Holy Spirit will guide him in proclaiming the Good News, promoting unity in the Church, and inspiring us to greater love and service.

For all who exercise authority whether in religion, business, education, or government: that they may recognize God as the source of all authority and use their power for promoting justice and the common good.

For a deep appreciation of the beauty and dignity of life: that the wisdom and knowledge of God may open our minds and hearts to honor and respect life especially in the aged, the disabled, and the mentally ill.

For all who are recovering from disasters, particularly the people of Hawaii: that God will relieve their pain, give them strength of spirit, and speed the assistance that they need.

For greater stewardship of the earth: that our hearts may be moved as we behold the wondrous work of God in nature and that we may care for it so that future generations may see God's work.

For healing in cities and neighborhoods: that God will guide leaders in addressing issues of racism, discrimination, and injustice in our communities, turn hearts from violence, and open pathways that will lead to reconciliation.

Living God, you sent your Son among us to reveal your wisdom and make known your ways. Increase our faith, that we may confess Jesus as your Son, take up his work on earth, and trust his promise to sustain the Church. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Offertory Motet (Luca Marenzio) 

Quem dicunt homines esse Filium hominis? (Whom do people say the Son of Man is?)

dixit Jesus discipulis suis. (Said Jesus to His disciples).

Respondens Simon Petrus dixit: (Simon Peter responded, saying:)

Tu es Christus, filius Dei vivi. (You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!)

Respondens autem Jesus dixit ei: (Jesus in return answered him, saying:)

Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram (You are Peter, and upon this rock)

Aedificabo ecclesiam meam.(I will build my church).

Communion Antiphon


Closing Hymn (Justin Wedgwood)
Oh, who can know the mind of God, or who dare call his name. 
Whose glory is the rising sun, whose every word is flame? 
Who else has cupped the seas in hands, or set the skies alight? 
Who else could carve from stone the land, or summon day from night? 
Who else surrounds in boundless deeps the island of the mind? 
Who else in clouds of silence keeps long watch for all our kind? 
Too high for us, O Lord your ways. Too vast your works to them. 
We reach with trembling words of praise to touch your garment's hem.