Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 27, 2017 – Year A
Readings: Is 22:19-23 / Ps 138 / Rom 11:33-36 / Mt 16:13-20
by Rev. Salvador Anonuevo, Pastor
On behalf of our diocesan administrator, Monsignor Mark Lane, I would like to thank you for all the prayers you have offered for the repose of the soul of Bishop DiLorenzo. A special thanks to the Divine Mercy Cenacle group who prayed the chaplet here last Friday on the day of his funeral.
Several months before Bishop DiLorenzo celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday, last April 15, which is the age of retirement for bishops, he had been looking forward to spending a relaxing life here in Virginia, the place where he calls home. And on weekdays, he planned to say Masses, during his retirement, at St. Peter’s Church, a pretty small parish in downtown Richmond, and celebrate one of their Sunday Masses. He planned to have quality time, traveling to see his friends here, in Pennsylvania and other places, which he wasn’t able to do all these years. But as we know, his plans were cut short, when he died a few minutes before midnight ten days ago, on August 17th.
When things like this happen, sometimes people of faith ask: “Why, in spite of all the prayers of bishops, priests, deacons, laypeople – not only here in Virginia but in many other places – the Lord God, who is the God of mercy and love, and who intervened thousands of times in the past for so many people all over the world, did not do it this time for our bishop?” I do not have the answer to this question and neither do the most brilliant of theologians.
St. Paul’s words to the Romans, which we heard in today’s second reading, also move us to say the same words – where the apostle said “How inscrutable are God’s judgments and how unsearchable His ways!”
In today’s gospel, these same words of St. Paul also shed light on why He gave Peter the authority to be the leader of the Church when He told him, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. And I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” What authority He gave to Peter – and yet if we continue reading this same chapter, just three days after calling Peter “the Rock,” Jesus called him “Satan.”
Fast forward to a few hours before Jesus was crucified, when Peter denied our Lord, not just once, but three times. After His resurrection, the Lord Jesus, in spite of Peter’s weakness and frailties, didn’t change His mind, saying, “Feed my lambs,” not once, but three times. How inscrutable are His ways indeed.
After our Lord’s ascension into heaven, we saw that the Lord made the right choice. Peter had started exercising his primacy and authority over the rest of the disciples, when he proposed the election of a new apostle to replace Judas Iscariot. After the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles at Pentecost, Peter is the one who speaks to the crowd and makes the first converts. He replies to the Sanhedrin on behalf of all Christ’s followers. He admits Cornelius, the first Gentile, into the Church. He presides at the council of Jerusalem and rejects the attempts of the Jewish Christians to impose circumcision on the Gentile converts, laying it down that salvation is to be had only through faith in Christ.
These spiritual powers and authority were given not only to Peter but to the rest of the apostles for the good of the Church. And because the Church has to last until the end of time, these powers are handed down throughout history to those who take the place of the apostles.
The ordination of Bishop DiLorenzo, and whoever will be our next bishop here in the diocese of Richmond, and the Holy Orders received by all the bishops, priests and deacons, all over the world, can be traced all the way back to St. Peter and the first apostles. The disciples and their successors are to use these powers to serve the rest of the members of the mystical Body of Christ, the Church, so that through the sacraments and the guidance of God’s living words in Scriptures, we may receive the grace we need to live a life worthy of our dignity as God’s children, from the day of our birth up to the time that we are about to enter the door we call death and enter into everlasting life.