21st Sunday ordinary time 8-27-17 Isaiah 22:19-23; Ps: 138:1-3, 6, 8; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20
So, here’s the key!! (Displays large old key) Well, not the actual key, but we do know that the Key to King David’s house was a big one. After all, it was the key to a King’s palace.
So, really, what was it that was so special about King David? He was the youngest son and just a lowly shepherd. But God said, “I have found David to be a man after my own heart who will fulfill my every wish” (1Sam 13:14). In Acts 13:22 St. Paul preaches about this: that above all, our heart must have no desire, no purpose, no agenda, but live to do God’s bidding- we are to be people after God’s heart, like David. This is what made King David special.
Traditionally we credit King David with Ps 27, “One thing I ask of the Lord: this I seek: to dwell in the House of the Lord, all the days of my life, that I may behold the beauty of the Lord and seek his face.” At Mass, the Priest recites David’s great confession from Ps 51, “Wash me from my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin.” His Psalms say a lot about where his heart was.
Our first reading from Isaiah tells about Shebna getting fired from his job at the palace. He apparently was more concerned with his own power and prestige, and not so much with the King’s needs or the people of the kingdom. Eliakim replaced Shebna, and was advised to be “a father to the people”. Fathers are supposed to look out for the best interests of the family; the King needed someone who cared about the kingdom.
But notice that the key of the House of David is so large and heavy that Eliakim will carry it on his shoulder. This image tells us that he had great authority in the government. He determined who could see the King. His authority came directly from the King. His position was one of far-reaching responsibility; he literally carried a heavy load. If he shut the door, you had no recourse. If he opened the door, you had access to the greatest power in the kingdom. If he said “no”, that was it. If he said, “yes”, you were in luck.
If you remember, Isaiah also wrote about someone else who had the weight of government upon his shoulder – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace.” (Isa 9:6)
This same key shows up again, not only in our Gospel, but in the book of Revelation (3:7), where it says, “The Holy One…holds the key of David…” Jesus now holds the Key of David. It shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to David, and the Lord of the Kingdom of heaven.
The angel Gabriel tied it all together when he told Mary at the annunciation, “(The child) will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of His father David. (Luke 1:32)”
In Matthew and Revelation, “the key” is no longer to an earthly palace, but to “the Kingdom of heaven”. The pattern is that ideas and images are foreshadowed in the OT, then realized and completed in the NT. Jesus tells us that God had revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God, the Holy Spirit had enabled him to proclaim it, AND Peter believed. Divine power and a heart for God made Peter the leader and gave him authority.
But something else always shows up when the Key of David is mentioned in the Bible, Old or New Testament. And that something else is this: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This was an expression used in the teachings of the Rabbis of Jesus’ day. It can also be translated as open/shut or free/ imprison. But in all situations, it meant to forbid or permit with indisputable authority.
Later, in Matthew (23:13), Jesus chastised the scribes and Pharisees, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow those trying to enter.”
Since we pray every Sunday for the coming of the Kingdom, as Jesus taught us, I suggest that we take a lesson from the scribes and Pharisees, and make sure we never act in a way which would shut the kingdom of heaven to anyone. No closing, just opening. The keys and the authority are available to all of us, not just one individual or institution.
Here’s the point: let us do everything we are capable of to loose, open, free, and say yes to opening the Kingdom of God to all; because I believe we all can carry the Key, as we have already been given the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control of the Holy Spirit. What is required is to believe in Christ Jesus, Son of God, and act with the power of the Holy Spirit to make the Good News known, using words if necessary.