The "Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven"
The Gospel reading today picks up on images of keys and a key holder from the first reading from Isaiah. Keys signify ultimate power over the palace; the one with the keys has the authority to decide who is allowed in and who is kept out. When Jesus promises Peter the “keys to the kingdom of heaven,” he raises him to a place of high authority as well. This is the Gospel passage that gives us the image of St. Peter guarding the “pearly gates” and controlling access to heaven.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include this Gospel story of Jesus asking his disciples who the people think he is. They all include Peter’s correct answer to the question, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It is only Matthew’s Gospel that incorporates the next few verses upholding Peter as the foundation of the church and the “keeper of the keys” to the kingdom of heaven.
We look back to this story as the basis for our belief in Peter as the first pope and the idea of apostolic succession. Traditionally it has been understood that in this exchange, Jesus made Peter the primary apostle. Later, Peter transferred his authority to another man, who transferred it to another, and so on, down through all the bishops of Rome, the successive popes. The pope’s authority can be traced back in an unbroken line to Peter.
Today, each of us must make a personal answer to our Lord’s question: “Who do you say that I am?” Like Peter, can you say to your fellow believers that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God? Do you know Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Are you prepared to proudly proclaim to your family and all your friends that Jesus is your Lord and Savior?
These are important questions that we need to consider as we look forward to the day that Peter unlocks the gates of heaven for each of us!
God bless you folks, Father Gerard.