The Keys to the Kingdom
September 7, 2014
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Two weeks ago on the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, we read Matthew 16:13-20, and we heard Jesus change Simon’s name to Peter, meaning “rock,” and entrust the keys to the kingdom of heaven into the strong, calloused, and hardworking hands of this ordinary fisherman. With a profound display of trust, the Lord told Peter, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
The image of “the keys to the kingdom” has stuck with me over these past two weeks. In fact, as I was standing at the counter waiting to have duplicates made of the key to my new house, it occurred to me that it is only when we want to keep something hidden, concealed, private, or even protected that there is only one key, and we don’t pass that key out to others. I wanted to share copies of my house key. I made a list of all my family members and friends whom, for whatever reason, should have a key to my home. I was very concerned that I not leave anyone out.
When we consider that Jesus’s entire ministry was to proclaim the Kingdom and to invite everyone to enter, I wonder if possibly the Lord, after handing Peter “the key,” might not have then added, “Now go out and make duplicates and pass them out as fast as you can. Also, tell all those to whom you give ‘the key’ to duplicate it so that we can keep sharing access to My Father’s house.” We know that Jesus certainly wanted to make sure that no one was left out of the Kingdom.
The more I thought about this image of “the keys,” the more it made sense when I read this week’s Gospel passage. In this passage, Jesus is continuing to teach the disciples about the kingdom, and He gives them the same assurances that He offered Peter on the day He gave Peter a new name and “the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus said, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” He said this as he was proposing a method of conflict resolution to promote forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation. Could it be that one of “the keys” that provides access to the kingdom is forgiveness? And if that’s true, doesn’t it follow that anger, revenge, grudges, resentment, and all of the related shades of darkness might prevent us from gaining admission to the Kingdom?
It’s not always easy to find a key in a purse or coat pocket. Sometimes we look all over the house before we find our car keys right where we left them. But we have to keep looking if we want to get in the house or get going in the car! Other times, we find the key, but we struggle to get it into the lock. Sometimes we face off against one of those stubborn locks that refuse to release the bolt so that the door can swing open.
If, indeed, forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation are keys to the kingdom, then we have to keep searching within our hearts for the grace to swing open the door and free ourselves from whatever grudge we hold, resentment we harbor, or desire for revenge that weighs down our spirits.
We don’t want to be left out of the Kingdom, left out in the cold, or stranded!