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The Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


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GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

The 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time for Year A is a very special Sunday.  For me in particular, because this passage from the Gospel of Matthew has proven pivotal for me and my understanding not just of the Jewish roots of Christianity, but of the Jewish roots of Catholicism in particular.  This Sunday we read the famous account of Jesus conferring the keys of the kingdom upon Peter and changing his name from Simon to Peter, the rock upon which he would build his church.  So I want to look at this passage with you in detail.  Many Catholics are familiar with it, but I want to try to put it back in its first century Jewish context, to clarify the meaning of Jesus's words to Peter, and then show you how in this Sunday in particular, the Old Testament really sheds light on the Jewish roots of the institution of the papacy and how it goes back not just to Peter, but to Jesus's will for Peter as the leader of the 12 disciples and as the leader of the Church.

SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

So Paul takes these two quotes—one from Isaiah and one from Job—that point up the majesty of God, the mystery of His identity as creator, but also His omnipotence and His sovereignty over all things. And then he brings it to a close with his own expression:

For from him and through him and to him are all things.

And the Greek word there is ta panta, and it means everything that is created. So all created things have their source—their origin—in God. And that’s why He’s inscrutable. That’s why His judgments are unsearchable. That’s why there’s a transcendent element to God that we can never fully comprehend. In other words, God in Himself is a mystery. He’s mysterious.

And I think that this is helpful for us to remember, especially in the study of theology. Sometimes it can be a temptation when you’re reading the Bible or when you’re studying theology to want to figure out every single thing and to want to answer every single question in a way that is completely satisfactory. And on the one hand, we don’t want to end up in a kind of blind fideism, where we say, “Oh, I believe something even though I know it isn’t true.” That’s not what Christianity does. We believe in faith and reason.

At the same time, there are limits to human reason, and there are limits to human knowledge. And Paul is making those limits really clear here, as he faces the mystery—which he himself calls a mystery—of the relationship between Israel and the Gentiles and the drama of salvation. He is pressed, so to speak, to the limit of what he himself is even able to express and comprehend, and that’s why he ends by saying:

How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

And he quotes Job precisely because how does the book of Job end? What does God say to Job famously?

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

So there’s a certain presumption in a human being demanding answers for every single mystery without realizing that God is God and we’re not. And He is infinite, and we are finite. And everything that exists comes from Him, and we are creatures—very small creatures—in the midst of a very large creation. And so Paul ends there with:

To him be glory for ever. Amen.

Which, by the way, just to throw this out here….this is another one of those verses that proves that for Paul, Christ is divine, that Christ is God, that He is equal with God. Because notice what he says about God. He says:

...from him and through him and to him are all things.

So this is Paul’s way of describing God as the creator. Well, if you skip over to 1 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 6, listen to what Paul says about God and about Christ. He says:

...for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

So did you see what Paul just did there? He took the Jewish affirmation of the shema:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

He took the Jewish affirmation of monotheism, of one god, and he wove Jesus Christ into it. He says:

...for us there is one God…

So it’s still monotheism. God...

...the Father, from whom are all things…

So He’s the creator.

...and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

So some scholars have said when they’ve looked at that, some have said, “Oh, well, no. Paul is putting Jesus on a secondary status, because although God the Father...it’s:

...from whom are all things…

When it comes to Jesus, Jesus is just an agent of creation, because “through whom” all things exist. But that’s not true, because you go back to Romans 11:36, the verse for today. When he’s talking about God the Father, he says:

...from him and through him and to him are all things.

So in other words, as Dr. Michael Barber and I—and John Kincaid—show in our book, Paul, A New Covenant Jew, for Paul, there’s a creator/creature divide. So on the one side, you have the creator, and on the other side, you have all creation—everything that exists, ta panta. Which side of the line is Jesus Christ on for Paul? He’s on the creator side, because as he says, through him all things exist.

And I just think that’s really important for us to remember, that when Paul’s talking about the inscrutable and unsearchable ways of the omnipotent creator, he doesn’t just mean God the Father. He also means the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who becomes man. So in other words, Romans 11, verse 36—the passage for today—and 1 Corinthians 8 are key texts for Paul’s...some scholars would call it christological monotheism. In other words, he’s affirming the oneness of God, but he’s also recognizing a plurality of divine persons. You’ve got one God the Father, but you also have one Lord Jesus Christ, and you also have the one Spirit...although that’s another topic for another time.

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Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


***Subscribe or Login for Full Access.***

GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

The 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time for Year A is a very special Sunday.  For me in particular, because this passage from the Gospel of Matthew has proven pivotal for me and my understanding not just of the Jewish roots of Christianity, but of the Jewish roots of Catholicism in particular.  This Sunday we read the famous account of Jesus conferring the keys of the kingdom upon Peter and changing his name from Simon to Peter, the rock upon which he would build his church.  So I want to look at this passage with you in detail.  Many Catholics are familiar with it, but I want to try to put it back in its first century Jewish context, to clarify the meaning of Jesus's words to Peter, and then show you how in this Sunday in particular, the Old Testament really sheds light on the Jewish roots of the institution of the papacy and how it goes back not just to Peter, but to Jesus's will for Peter as the leader of the 12 disciples and as the leader of the Church.

SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

So Paul takes these two quotes—one from Isaiah and one from Job—that point up the majesty of God, the mystery of His identity as creator, but also His omnipotence and His sovereignty over all things. And then he brings it to a close with his own expression:

For from him and through him and to him are all things.

And the Greek word there is ta panta, and it means everything that is created. So all created things have their source—their origin—in God. And that’s why He’s inscrutable. That’s why His judgments are unsearchable. That’s why there’s a transcendent element to God that we can never fully comprehend. In other words, God in Himself is a mystery. He’s mysterious.

And I think that this is helpful for us to remember, especially in the study of theology. Sometimes it can be a temptation when you’re reading the Bible or when you’re studying theology to want to figure out every single thing and to want to answer every single question in a way that is completely satisfactory. And on the one hand, we don’t want to end up in a kind of blind fideism, where we say, “Oh, I believe something even though I know it isn’t true.” That’s not what Christianity does. We believe in faith and reason.

At the same time, there are limits to human reason, and there are limits to human knowledge. And Paul is making those limits really clear here, as he faces the mystery—which he himself calls a mystery—of the relationship between Israel and the Gentiles and the drama of salvation. He is pressed, so to speak, to the limit of what he himself is even able to express and comprehend, and that’s why he ends by saying:

How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

And he quotes Job precisely because how does the book of Job end? What does God say to Job famously?

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

So there’s a certain presumption in a human being demanding answers for every single mystery without realizing that God is God and we’re not. And He is infinite, and we are finite. And everything that exists comes from Him, and we are creatures—very small creatures—in the midst of a very large creation. And so Paul ends there with:

To him be glory for ever. Amen.

Which, by the way, just to throw this out here….this is another one of those verses that proves that for Paul, Christ is divine, that Christ is God, that He is equal with God. Because notice what he says about God. He says:

...from him and through him and to him are all things.

So this is Paul’s way of describing God as the creator. Well, if you skip over to 1 Corinthians chapter 8, verse 6, listen to what Paul says about God and about Christ. He says:

...for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

So did you see what Paul just did there? He took the Jewish affirmation of the shema:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

He took the Jewish affirmation of monotheism, of one god, and he wove Jesus Christ into it. He says:

...for us there is one God…

So it’s still monotheism. God...

...the Father, from whom are all things…

So He’s the creator.

...and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

So some scholars have said when they’ve looked at that, some have said, “Oh, well, no. Paul is putting Jesus on a secondary status, because although God the Father...it’s:

...from whom are all things…

When it comes to Jesus, Jesus is just an agent of creation, because “through whom” all things exist. But that’s not true, because you go back to Romans 11:36, the verse for today. When he’s talking about God the Father, he says:

...from him and through him and to him are all things.

So in other words, as Dr. Michael Barber and I—and John Kincaid—show in our book, Paul, A New Covenant Jew, for Paul, there’s a creator/creature divide. So on the one side, you have the creator, and on the other side, you have all creation—everything that exists, ta panta. Which side of the line is Jesus Christ on for Paul? He’s on the creator side, because as he says, through him all things exist.

And I just think that’s really important for us to remember, that when Paul’s talking about the inscrutable and unsearchable ways of the omnipotent creator, he doesn’t just mean God the Father. He also means the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who becomes man. So in other words, Romans 11, verse 36—the passage for today—and 1 Corinthians 8 are key texts for Paul’s...some scholars would call it christological monotheism. In other words, he’s affirming the oneness of God, but he’s also recognizing a plurality of divine persons. You’ve got one God the Father, but you also have one Lord Jesus Christ, and you also have the one Spirit...although that’s another topic for another time.

For full access subscribe here >

 



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