August 24, 2014 – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
“You are Christ, Son of the living God.” With those words Peter confirms and affirms that he and the other Apostles fully realize exactly Who Jesus really is. The readings on this 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time address what it means to be a good steward; how God is the Creator and Designer of everything; and how we are expected to respond to the Lord’s authority.
In the first reading from Isaiah there is a telling statement in the first verse when the Lord identifies Shebna as the “master of the palace.” This means that Shebna is the “steward” of the palace. A steward is someone who holds the responsibility of being a master, but is not the owner. We, of course, are the masters of all we have and all we are, but we are not the owners. God is the owner; we merely hold God’s gifts, including all of our skills and talents, in trust, and are expected to use those gifts to serve God and others.
It is important that we bear in mind that Isaiah was a prophet, and what he is describing in this passage is Messianic in nature — that is, at the appointed time God will designate Jesus as His steward on earth, and it will be Jesus who truly holds the keys to the Kingdom — salvation and eternal life.
At the time St. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, from which our second reading is drawn, he was most likely in Greece, preparing to travel to Jerusalem for the final time. He had not evangelized in Rome as yet, but planned to do so in the future. This letter is Paul’s longest and contains the most “theology” of any of his letters. Although the reading is brief, Paul’s style, commitment, faith, and understanding are richly presented.
Paul points out that God is and should be the center of our lives. Living a God-centered life is important if we truly aspire to be a steward. Just as in the first reading we hear that it is Jesus who holds the keys to the Kingdom, this reading reaffirms that it is only through Christ that we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.: “…from him and through him and for him are all things.” Observe that all is “for him” (the Lord), not for any of us. We cannot do what God can do, even though we sometimes imagine that we can. Paul closes by telling us that we should live not to honor ourselves, but to honor God… “To him be glory forever.”
The Gospel repeats to us (and the Apostles) again Who Jesus is and what He came to do. Take note that Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man, which is the term He used most often to describe Himself. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” This is noteworthy in our understanding of not only the Lord’s perspective of Who He was, but in the perception of the Apostles, as well as ours. It was as if Jesus continuously emphasized the Holy Trinity. By calling Himself the Son of Man, when He was also the Son of God, the Lord made it clear to us that He was one with us.
He expands His question though when He says to the Apostles, “Who do you say I am?” This is the same question we must answer, in our daily lives and by the way we live them. Jesus, when He hears Peter’s answer, “You are Christ, Son of the living God,” proclaims that Peter is the “rock” on which He will build His Church. Peter later reminds us all that we are part of that structure, but assures us that Jesus is the cornerstone. Stewardship invites us to fulfill our part of that total structure as “We are one Body in Christ.”