Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
August 23, 2020
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

Peter was to be entrusted with the keys of the Church, or rather, he was entrusted with the keys of heaven; to him would be committed the whole people of God. The Lord told him: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 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.  Just think who it was whom God permitted to fall into sin—Peter himself, the head of the apostles, the firm foundation, the unbreakable rock, the most important member of the Church, the safe harbor, the strong tower; Peter, who had said to Christ, “Even if I have to die with you I will never deny you”; Peter, who by divine revelation had confessed the truth: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

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)

The blessed Peter, the first of the Apostles, the ardent lover of Christ, who was found worthy to hear, “And I say to you, that you are Peter.” He himself, you see, had just said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Christ said to him, “And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Upon this rock I will build the faith you have just confessed. Upon your words, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” I will build my Church; because you are Peter. Peter comes from petra, meaning a rock. Peter, “Rocky”, from “rock”; not “rock” from “Rocky”. 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. It is most aptly called a church, which means an “assembly of those called out,” because it “calls out” all people and gathers them together.... It was of this that he spoke to Peter: On this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it (St. Cyril of Jerusalem).

Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of his power that God in his goodness has given to this man. 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)

Aren’t we told that those we loose on earth are loosed in Heaven and those who are bound on earth are bound in Heaven? (Mt. 16:19; Jn. 20:23) Sounds like we have the power to bind other people for all eternity, and God’s hands are tied for as long as we want them to be. How much power is that? Not so fast. Why is it that we so easily assume we are being allowed, even encouraged to bind on earth? Why are we slower to see that maybe we are being encouraged to loose on earth? Let’s return to Peter’s question about how many times he must forgive and Jesus’ Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor. If we have to forgive others as God forgives us, and that without limit which is what seventy-seven times means, then we are indeed being encouraged to loose on earth. We are being warned that if we do not loose on earth, we are bound to our resentment for what others have done to us (or we think they have done to us.) If we remain bound to our resentments, we will be so bound even in Heaven since God’s hands are indeed tied for as long as we refuse to let God untie us. Truly accepting this free gift of forgiveness entails passing this free gift on to others. We are all thrown into the same world together. The question is whether we will be tied up in vengeance or bound with others by forgiveness (Abbot Andrew Marr).

The Gospel of Matthew gives a clear outline of the pastoral mission of Peter in the Church: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (16:17-19). Luke makes clear that Christ urged Peter to strengthen his brethren, while at the same time reminding him of his own human weakness and need of conversion (cf. 22:31-32). It is just as though, against the backdrop of Peter's human weakness, it were made fully evident that his particular ministry in the Church derives altogether from grace....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? And yet, Peter will deny Jesus three times. The Gospel of John emphasizes that Peter receives the charge of shepherding the flock on the occasion of a threefold profession of love (cf. 21:15-17), which corresponds to his threefold denial (cf. 13:38). Luke, for his part, in the words of Christ already quoted, words which the early tradition will concentrate upon in order to clarify the mission of Peter, insists on the fact that he will have to "strengthen his brethren when he has turned again" (cf. 22:32). (Pope St. John Paul II)

With us too, today, Jesus wants to continue building his Church, this house with solid foundations but where cracks are not lacking, and which is in constant need of repair. Always. 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).


Hard as a Rock?

            This Secret Cult of Priests Still Won’t Recognize Pope Francis.  That’s the headline of a story that appeared this week on the Daily Beast.  (By the way, it’s not so secret).  The major players are well-known to the public: Archbishop Viganò, the former nuncio to the United States, leads the pack along with other, not-quite-so blatant hierarchs, like Cardinal Raymond Burke.  And make no mistake, there are plenty of American bishops who are stealth members of the opposition.  Then there are laypersons like Attorney General William Barr, Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and a host of online personalities like Michael Voris and Taylor Marshall who run anti-Francis sites like the former’s Church Militant.  Others, such as EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo are a bit more coy like their cagey clerical counterparts. 

            One reason the media have awakened to the problem is the excommunication last week of Fr. Jeremy Leatherby by the bishop of Sacramento for using Pope Benedict XVI's name, instead of Pope Francis', during Mass in what amounts to a schismatic act. (Other groups are outright sede vacantists who believe the See of Rome has been vacant since the days of Pius XII before the Second Vatican Council).

            Lest these players seem to be little more than a fringe phenomenon, the Jesuit journal America just published an article entitled Pope Francis’ critics are dividing the church and families—including mine in which the author, Mike Lewis, writes of more mainstream Catholics for whom the Rock of Peter has become a stumbling-block in the person of his current successor:

 Since I began writing and speaking publicly about this phenomenon, I have heard from hundreds of Catholics who have seen their families and communities divided over Pope Francis. In some parishes— and even some diocesan seminaries—negativity toward Francis has become so commonplace that those who support him feel compelled to keep their views to themselves. One priest told me that several seminarians referred to their seminaries as “Francis-free zones” (August 13, 2020)

           The situation has gotten so bad that the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Angelo Scola -- reputed to have been the runner-up in the last conclave -- recently rose to Francis’ defense saying among other things:

It is not by affinity of temperament, of culture, of sensibility, or for friendship, or because one shares or does not share his affirmations that one acknowledges the meaning  of the pope in the church....It means to have the humility and the patience to empathize with his personal history, the way he expresses his faith, addresses us, and makes choices of leadership and governance....I truly consider admirable and moving the extraordinary capacity of Pope Francis to make himself close to everyone, and especially to the excluded, to those who are subjected to “the throw-away culture” as he so often reminds          [us] in his keenness to communicate the Gospel to the world (Interview, July 18, 2020)

            It all makes one think that 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 when he exclaimed, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am sinful man” (Lk. 5:8).  And this is the same Peter whom 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 saint material 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.  You recall the problem at Corinth when rival stars had their own fan clubs?  How Paul described the situation: I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ” (I Cor. 1:12)?  Just plug in your favorite pope’s name and you get the picture.

            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, his confession of faith echoing in the voice of his successors -- even if occasionally we might hear an echo of that voice which three times said, I do not know the man (Mt. 26:72,74).  Let’s face it, history tells us some popes might well be found fumbling with the 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 David:  The 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 that the only 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 (Mary Grace Melcher)

For our Holy Father, successor to St. Peter and keeper of the keys of the kingdom, that His faith and the inner support of the heavenly Father may be His strength.

That the depths of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God may influence and judge the thoughts of the powerful, moving them to decisions based on justice and respect for life.

That we may be challenged by the direct question of Jesus: “Who do you say that I am?” and that our answer may determine our thoughts, words, and actions before His face.

For our bishops and priests and deacons, that they may be fathers over the new Jerusalem, holding a place of honor in the church with integrity and devotion.

For the weak and the lowly, those who are sick or impoverished and lacking in resources, that through our calling upon the Lord for them He may build up their strength.

For our faithful departed ones, that they may be quickly purified to sing the praises of the Lord in the presence of the angels.

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).

Lord’s Prayer

With trusting faith, we pray as Jesus taught....

 Spiritual Communion (“Spiritual Eating of the Sacrament”by Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe)

O Lord Jesus Christ, my God and my Savior, these are the noble, comforting words in which You Yourself witness to us the truth, that Your body and Your blood, which were given and shed for us, are truly here. I believe, O Lord, that Your words are truth and that heaven and earth must pass away before Your words would be false. O Lord God, preserve, increase, and strengthen in me faith, love and devotion toward You in this Sacrament, for in the form of bread and wine Your holy body and Your precious blood are present—the body which You gave into death for me; the blood which You shed for the forgiveness of my sins. You offer this body and blood to me, a poor sinner, out of love and grace as a true food, as a true drink of my soul, whereby it most certainly obtains forgiveness of all sins, unification with You, and incorporation into Your spiritual body and the communion of all saints; strength, comfort, and help in all temptation of the enemy; confirmation in love, in faith, and in hope; also preparation for the long road to an unknown land which stands before me. O Lord, You have known well that I am a poor sinner; but still You have esteemed me so highly in this Your last testament. Therefore I come, full of trust and desire, and because I cannot receive it today with my mouth, let me receive its sweet fruit spiritually into my soul. I beseech You, my God and Savior, that You would not shut me out of Your Supper, but according to Your merciful promise (cf. John 6), You would feed me now with Your holy body and would give me to drink of Your blood, so that I may receive You spiritually into my soul and all my sins may be forgiven me; and so that a living faith, love, and hope be raised up, strengthened and confirmed: so that You only may reign in me mightily, and I may remain steadfast in You with my whole mind and heart. I want also, my God and Lord, to believe fully in Your holy words without doubt. And because You are present to forgive sins, and I appear before You poor and hungry for Your mercy, You will give me, and I shall receive: no one can prevent this—the fruit of the Sacrament ought and shall be accomplished in me. For this be praise and glory unto You forever and ever. Amen.

Communion Antiphon


 Closing Hymn


The Church's one foundation Is Jesus Christ her Lord;

She is His new creation By water and the Word:

From heav'n He came and sought her To be His holy Bride;

With His own blood He bought her, And for her life He died.


Elect from every nation, yet one o'er all the earth; her charter of salvation,

one Lord, one faith, one birth;

one holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food,

and to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.


Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,

she waits the consummation of peace forevermore;

till, with the vision glorious, her longing eyes are blest,

and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.


Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,

and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.

O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we like them,

the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee.