When I read the Gospel for Sunday – of Jesus entrusting the keys of the Kingdom to Peter – I had to smile at a memory. My first assignment after ordination was at Holy Cross Parish in South Bend. For some unfathomable reason, I had to have as many keys on my key ring as possible. It showed folks that I was “somebody important.”
Now I try to make do with as few keys as possible. Call it maturity, or call it thrifty (so as not to wear holes in my pants pockets). It wasn’t until later that I recall reading that keys were a sign of one’s power. It was a very sheepish “aha” moment for me.
The “keys” that were given to Peter are symbols of his authority to govern. They attest to his power – and the power of his successors – to bind and loose. Unfortunately, if you know your church history, many prelates used their power in very secular ways, acting like earthly emperors and royalty. Other prelates chose to govern the way Jesus would: with gentleness, compassion, inclusion. We’ve got to remember that the power of governing which Peter received from Jesus is the same power that Jesus received from his Father. Those keys in the hands of Jesus opened ears, eyes, and hearts. Those keys in the hands of Jesus shut out darkness, evil, and death from dominating God’s creation and God’s family.
We all carry around some metal keys … there’s really no choice. But once beyond the essentials, what then? The keys that I choose to carry around now are a smile, a kind word, a touch, a prayer, a shoulder, an ear. They are weightless, never wear out, never make noise … but man, are they powerful! Talk about the ability to bind and loose hearts and minds!
Love deeply laugh often, pray faithfully!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.