Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily Transcript
This gospel is one that should get every Catholic fired up. This is the quintessential Catholic passage. It’s the foundation of the church. You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.
In fact, this entire scripture passage-if you go to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, where I had the privilege to be for six years studying to be a priest- you see this entire passage in Latin and Greek along the ceiling of the massive basilica there. It’s so fundamental.
Peter is named the foundation of the church, the chief of the apostles. And Jesus is able to recognize that Peter has a revelation from God the Father. It’s literally, God the Father infusing a knowledge into Peter that Jesus is the son of the living God no one else recognizes this, except for Peter and that’s why he will be the rock.
And so, the gates of the netherworld; Peter is told- shall never prevail against the church. He’s given those keys. And indeed, Peter held the keys and he passed those keys on to his successor and so on down the line until today. Pope Francis holding the keys of St. Peter.
Now there have been times in the history of the church where it did indeed look like the gates of hell were going to prevail against us. In fact, even in Peter’s time.
There Peter stood in Rome, holding those keys in the year 64ad-in October. He would find himself in the circus of Nero, the emperor of Rome where he would be crucified upside down. And his flock -hundreds and hundreds of Christians likewise were being killed. Peter surely, may have thought that this was the end of the church.
But, no. Christ’s prophecy held true.
The gates of the netherworld did not prevail against the church. In fact, the blood of St. Peter and those early Christian martyrs was the seed of more Christians. More and more Christians would spring up more and more saints. Okay?
So, Peter is killed but that’s not the end of the story. Peter’s successor, Pope clement; likewise, would hold the keys. And he too, would be killed for his faith. But the gates in the netherworld did not prevail against it.
In fact, the first 33 popes of the Catholic Church would be killed, would be martyred. And yet, the Catholic Church would not succumb. G.K. Chesterton has a great line. He says, “Ooh, those awful keys.”
Fast forward now, 1527 Pope Clement the 7th would be imprisoned in the Vatican, held hostage, and would die but the Catholic Church would prevail. Couple of centuries after Pope Clement, Pope Pius the 7th would be imprisoned and killed by Napoleon-another invader of the Vatican, another thrust up from hell. But the Catholic Church would not succumb. Pope Pius the 12th was imprisoned by Hitler within the Vatican and he would not succumb. And even today, we have forces trying to work against the Church but we will not fail because we have the Holy Spirit with us.
The Catholic Church as an institution shall not succumb. And you, as little churches because all of you at home- temples of the Holy Spirit are the Catholic Church as well.
Sometimes in your life it looks like the gates of the netherworld are going to prevail against you, but stand firm and hold faith because God is with you. You will not succumb. You will preserver to eternal life.
A special thank you to our congregation from St. Juliana Parish, Chicago.
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