Homily for 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Who is this Almighty, Awesome, and Wise Lord To Me?
Readings: 1st: Ish 22, 19-23; Ps 137, 1-3.6. 8; 2nd: Rom 11, 33-36; Gos: Mtt 16, 13-20

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Sancto, in Dorado, San Juan Puerto Rico, of the Spiritan International Group of Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

“How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge…To him be all the glory. Amen!” It is on the note of this amazing and beautiful outburst of joy from our second reading today that we begin our reflection on this 21st Sunday of ordinary time. In a special way the church enjoins us to recognize, reverence with “sacred awe”, praise, and glorify the Sovereign, the All Powerful and Wise Lord. It is only when we know him (as much as he chooses to reveal himself to us though), that we can respect his ordinances, appreciate his greatness, burst out in amazement and declare to others who he really is as Paul and Peter did today.
A young girl was asked: “Who is your father, and how would you describe him?” She was quiet for a couple of seconds as if he was lost in wondering contemplation. Eventually, she mustered enough courage and responded thus: “My Father?” She retorted. “He is that man who leaves home before I wake up in the morning; that man who comes back home when I am already asleep, at times with some bars of chocolate, ice cream, cake, peanuts, and fried potato chips; that man who punches mummy in the face whenever he returns home drunk and, he is that man who never cares or gives me a hug.” Tears rolled down her cheeks as she concludes: “That is my father, but how I wish I never knew him” Finally, she burst out crying. Is this little girl wrong or to blame? Not at all! This is the picture of her dad she has, and in her innocence, she has painted it and thus, expressed her emotions. Like this little girl (who was right in her case), some of us have a very pejorative view of God, some wrong notion of what he stands for and can do, yet others are indifferent in their opinion about who Jesus is to them. Who is Jesus to you?
In the first reading of today, God exhibits his power over all sovereignty, throne and kingdom. In his wise judgment, he reduces the proud and wicked hearted while exalting the lowly and faithful. While Shebna was dethroned because of his pride, wickedness and lack of obedience to the ordinances of the Almighty God, the humble Eliakim was elevated to the throne. In this, Eliakim becomes a prophecy of the Messiah, because Jesus told us this passage spoke of Himself: “These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.” (Rev 3:7). Jesus is the one with the keys of Hades and of Death (Rev1:8), and he is the one who has all authority both in heaven and on earth. Jesus delegates this authority to anyone that pleases him, and as it pleases Him, just as he did to Peter today in our gospel reading (Matt 16:19).
In the second reading, we see Paul this Sunday bursting out in jubilant excitement and exaltation over the wisdom of God. Like a mountaineer who has reached the apex of Kilimanjaro, the apostle turns and contemplates. Depths are at his feet, but waves of light illumine them, and there spreads all around him an immense horizon which his eye commands. The plan of God in the government of mankind spreads out before Paul, and he expresses the feelings of admiration and gratitude with which the prospect fills his heart. Today therefore, Paul not only presents to us the greatness of the wisdom of God, but also His sovereignty over all creation. The Lord’s plans are as marvelous as his wisdom, acts and justice; his designs are as profound as his doings are vast. Creation is immeasurable, and the wisdom displayed in it unsearchable. God alone possesses wisdom in the absolute sense: “…For with Him are wisdom and might. To Him belong counsel and understanding.” (Job 12:13). Paul presents to us the Creator not created by any one, the Counselor not counseled by any one, and the one whose ways, methods and designs are obviously different from ours. Of course, when we realize this we cannot but like Paul burst out in jubilant praise: “How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge…” and “How great is your name O, Lord our God, through all the earth…” (Ps 8, 1). How do I see God, and how great is my God, is a pertinent question we must ask ourselves today! For us to realize how great he is, we must seek him sincerely. As humans, we cannot fathom his greatness, but he reveals himself to those who seek him in truth and honesty. He has done this in, and through Jesus Christ, but only those who humbly allow the eyes of their mind to be illumined by the Holy Spirit will see and know him.
For lack of space and time, it suffices only, to take note of the importance of today’s gospel to the Apostolic Succession and the Papacy of the Holy, One and Catholic Church. So, we leave it for the solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul or the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. In this gospel, Jesus fully aware of the on-going debate about him and the ignorance of the people about his personality, decided to also know the mind of those close to him – His disciples: “Who do people say I am…and…You, who do you say I am?” We must not distance ourselves from this question today. Rather, we must ask ourselves: “Who is Jesus to me? This is because, it is possible that we have been baptized, received Holy Communion, got married in the church, ordained as a pastor or minister, served, and in fact still serving in the church in different capacities and yet do not know who Jesus is. I am not kidding you brethren! A very sincere and humble priest once confessed that he never had an encounter with Jesus Christ until after seven years of his ordination. Many of us have a distorted view of God, views of God that are distorted because of our background, experiences or perhaps just simply because of our ignorance. So, we do not realize that we are actually worshiping the greatest Deity. Much of our lives and much of our time is spent worshiping a figment of our own imaginations and so, what we fail to realize is that God exists independently of our views of him. God exists as he is regardless of our woeful and inadequate views of him. Our goal as Christians should be to bring our understanding of God in line with the truth of who He really is.
My dear, you cannot answer this question of your own accord. Therefore, like Peter and Paul, we must seek the counsel of the wise God. We must ask the Holy Spirit to help us and, we must ask God himself to reveal his son to us as he did to Peter today, else we will continue to have very wrong and distorted opinions about Jesus Christ as the Jews had: “…Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah…” Who do I say Jesus is? May be, he is the “universal” or “cosmic policeman” standing around every corner just waiting for us to break the law so that he can punish or trash us; the “indulgent old man” who is a little senile but very friendly; the “shrewd” or “frantic manager” sweating profusely because the world is such a mess and he is trying to hold it all together, or the “workaholic father” trying to meet the needs of his family, the miracle worker, the healer, the problem solver, the defender, the rock of ages etcetera. Indeed, he all of these and even more than these, but only God in his great wisdom can make him fully known to us if we humble ourselves. Peter got the answer not just by his own power, but by the grace of God. It was a gift offered to him by God in order to prepare him for more blessings and the exalted position from the Son himself. He is blessed and happy today because he knew who Jesus is. In order to be blessed and be exalted like Peter, we must first of all declare: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God!” And, “How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge…To him be all the glory. Amen!”
Peace be with you all!!

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