As you may know, MLB baseball started up about a month ago. I am a fan of the Cleveland Indians, and they were playing the Pittsburg Pirates the other night. The game came down to a close play, a home run that may have been foul. They went to video replay and said the call stands, or there wasn’t enough video evidence to overturn the request, as they say in football. So, it came down to the judgment of one man, looking at a ball that was above the foul pole, to determine the outcome of the game. Now imagine what it would have been like if there was no umpire, no authority to call out or safe, fair or foul, ball or strike. The game would fall apart, and every close call would turn into an argument. While it may not be the best analogy, I believe it is similar in the Church. Without some authority, there would be no Church, and there would be no teaching. But we as Catholics have that authority—the authority of the Pope and the entire body of Bishops throughout the world.
In the Gospel, we heard a famous passage. Jesus first asks his disciples, who do people say that I am? They respond with different answers. But then Jesus takes it a little further and asks, now who do you say that I am. And Peter responds with a profession of faith, and you are the Christ, the son of the living God. Peter is professing that Jesus himself is the messiah and the divine son of God. Jesus then responds to him by saying flesh and blood have not revealed this to you but my Heavenly Father. I say to you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my Church. We likely have heard this phrase before, but I would like to point you to the next part of this passage. Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is giving Peter authority, an authority that comes from him alone. Peter is the head of the apostles and the ruler of the Kingdom of God.
We see something similar in our first reading. The prophet gave a key to David’s royal house to Eliakim. It’s not like a key you may provide to your children or a co-worker. Rather this key represents authority and power.
This is significant for us as Catholics. The authority given to Peter was handed down to his successor, all the way to Pope Francis. It now rests in the hands of Pope Francis, who has had it for the last few years. Ultimately today’s reading points to the fact that Jesus himself gave authority to Peter and, in turn, to all of his successors. The Pope is the head of our Church and speaks with authority. Ultimately it isn’t his authority but rather an authority given to him by Jesus Christ himself.
So what does this mean for us as Catholics? I think back to my baseball analogy. What the umpire says is what goes into the game. You may not like the call that he makes, but he has the final authority. It helps the game move, and it keeps the game together. It’s similar in our Catholic Church. The Pope has authority on matters of faith and morals. We should, as Catholics, respect what he says and listen to him. We may not always agree with what he says, but he has the authority to say it.
We are blessed to have a Pope and a leader of our Church. Sometimes they make mistakes and lead us in the wrong direction. But Jesus knew that we needed someone to be a leader while he was not here on earth. I pray we can all respect Pope Francis and his successors. They hold the keys to the kingdom of Heaven, given first to Peter and his successors.
I got the idea for this homily from the video bellow.