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Monday, August 22, 2011

Peter's Keys or Ours?

This reflection on the keys given to Peter, written by Fr. Jose, makes me uneasy. Especially this part:

The truth is we don’t have to be offered this power of keeping the gate. We already have that power to open or close the kingdom of God to ourselves and to each other. We already have the keys to let ourselves in or to shut one another out of the kingdom or presence of God dwelling within us. We already have that power to open our hearts to life and love, hope and faith. And the power is ours as well to keep the shadows at bay.

While the writer's point about our own "power" to open and shut is a profound and insightful one, more needs to be said than what he wrote. In fact, to say that I have any power to shut someone else out of the kingdom, or let him into it, sounds as wrong as it sounds presumptuous to say of myself. While our own free will, a gracious gift from God, allows us to open to to shut out ourselves from the kingdom, those are our own decisions to cooperate with God's grace or not. While we do preach the gospel to plant seeds, it is not my "power" at work, only my participation. To God be the glory! Extolling our "power" to open and shut makes it seem as if it was sufficient in and of itself. All this talk of our "power" is discomfiting. We cannot even say "yes" to God without His grace. Of the pope, it is not his power, but Christ's power, extended to him as authority.
Why did Fr. Jose not write about the papacy, though that would be the most natural theme for this passage? Walking around the topic of authority, even with the best intentions, the essay ends up turning everyone into the ultimate authority, it seems. As Msgr. Charles Pope wrote today, if no one is pope, everyone is pope.
I believe that the authority of the Church and the papacy are not to be hushed up, but to be proclaimed! The readings today about Eliakim, and then about Peter make for an unmistakable lesson on authority. Yes, the authority to bind and to loose may be seen as power, but as you said, [s]uch power can never really be divorced from the grace of his love.. . The papacy is a gift, an expression of God's love. Such love, we should proclaim, and be thankful for!

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