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Sunday – 21

As you get older, you begin to forget certain things. Where did I put my eyeglasses? Where did I leave my watch or ballpen? In my case, I also forget if I brought my keys with me. When that happens, I have to find another house to stay in for the night!

The gospel today uses the image of the key to express an important component of our Catholic faith. Jesus says to Peter: I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

First, it tells us about the important role of Peter in the life of the early Christian community. Peter embodies weaknesses – lack of faith, for instance. But Peter also embodies the exactness and accuracy of faith: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God! Jesus entrusted Peter with a mission not because he was perfect but because he was willing to learn each time how to return to the source of grace. In the end, he was to be the primary shepherd of the flock of Christ.

As Catholics, we believe that the office of Peter is still with us through the Holy Father, the Pope. The popes are the successors of Peter and the sign of the unity of the church. In these days, the World Youth Day is a living expression of the way the Holy Father can call young people together for Jesus. Every papal visit also makes a powerful impact on the faith of people everywhere.

Second, the gospel today illustrates the meaning of the key. A key symbolizes power. He who holds the key controls the entry or departure of people or controls the access to a place that may be restricted to others. Peter therefore has power, a divine power to bind and loose. This power is not that of domination or oppression. It is a power to serve by inviting and leading people to the right door that opens up to Christ.

A key also symbolizes responsibility. He who has the key must be vigilant at all times. He cannot lose the key or neglect it. He must keep the key for the sake of others. So just imagine the sacrifices of the Holy Father for the church as he confronts one trial after another. Pope John Paul not only guided the church but also suffered personally for the Body of Christ.

In a special way, we can say that the key is also given to each one of us. At baptism, Jesus gave us the key to heaven. It doesn’t mean that we automatically become heirs of the Kingdom. We have the power, yes, because we are now God’s children. But we also feel the responsibility not to lose the key but to guard it and keep it safe for ourselves and for others who also wish to enter.

Peter has been an inspiring figure in the early community and even today in our church. Can you also be like him, eagerly keeping the key of salvation and sharing this discovery with others with whom we share our lives?