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Lost your keys, Peter?

The gospel reading for this coming Sunday, the 21st in Ordinary Time in Year A, includes Matthew’s famous addition to Mark’s account, giving Peter the Keys to the Kingdom. The bishops of Rome, as we all know, have traditionally read this as an endorsement of their claim to hegemony over the whole Christian movement. That conclusion rests on more than one questionable premise; that these “keys” could be passed on from Peter to others; that those others are limited to one particular institutional structure; and that this was an unconditional and irrevocable gift. On that last point, it is notable that both Matthew follows Mark in linking Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus with an immediately following incident in which he is denounced as a Satanic tempter attempting to deflect Jesus from his path of suffering. If the line of Popes claim the first, they certainly provide plenty of historical examples of the second!
Clearly I do not think that is what our passage is about at all. In its context near Caesarea Philppi, Peter’s recognition of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and Son of God is a bold refutation of the claims made by Caesar and his colonial underlings that they were liberating civilisation-builders blessed by the gods. For Peter and the other disciples to follow through on this insight would involve much suffering, but would eventually destroy the “gates of hell” enslaving their world. For us, the issues are little changed.
You can hear my comments here….
Please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you think!
Howard Pilgrim

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