of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

There is a very simple theme to this Sunday’s readings: it is the principle of authority in the community of the Church: we are introduced to the idea that God gives authority to someone in the first reading, where Shebna is dismissed by God and replaced. This is a prelude to the Gospel story of Peter being given authority: not because he is powerful or wise in the world’s sense, but because he was able to profess his faith in the one sent by the Father. This is the principle of all authority in the Church: it is to spring only from God and our faith in God,  professed by our way of life and rooted only in Christ, for ‘to him all authority, in heaven and on earth, has been given.’

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Isaiah 22:19-23.
Shebna’s job was steward or master of the palace, a position of great authority. he had, however, abused this authority, and so is to be replaced with Eliakim, who will act with justice and integrity. To understand how to read this, look at the Gospel and see the parallels between the two ‘appointments’ - especially the reference to keys, and the lines ‘should he open, no one shall close’, and ‘whatever you loose on earth...’. The tone of the reading is quite stern and formal: it might be effective if (without going over the top) you read in a rather formal manner - as an official delivering an edict. You might want to imagine how Isaiah delivered the message in the Palace around the year 700 B.C.  Be careful with uncommon words like ‘robe’ and ‘sash’ - as a general rule, the less common a word is, the easier it is for the listeners to miss it.
Second Reading: Romans 11:33-36.
Paul, after the passionate outbursts of the last two weeks, seems to end this section of the letter by pouring out everything in an exultant hymn of praise today. In a sense, there is no great ‘meaning’ to be unearthed in this reading - it is simply praise of God, such as we find in the Psalms. It is almost poetic. So read it without worrying: simply enter Paul’s mind and heart. He is so filled with the love and knowledge of God that it overflows from his pen uncontrollably! Underline the three phrases at the beginning: ‘How impossible’ Allow the questions to resonate in the minds of your listeners, and end (as Paul does) with the triumphant glorification of God and the Amen.

From the Catechism

CCC 551-553
The Keys of the Kingdom

CCC 880-887
Foundations of unity: the college of bishops with its head, the successor of Peter

CCC 880-887
When Christ instituted the Twelve, "he constituted [them] in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them." Just as "by the Lord's institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another."
The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the "rock" of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head." This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.
The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful." "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."
"The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, as its head." As such, this college has "supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff."
"The college of bishops exercises power over the universal Church in a solemn manner in an ecumenical council."405 But "there never is an ecumenical council which is not confirmed or at least recognized as such by Peter's successor."
"This college, in so far as it is composed of many members, is the expression of the variety and universality of the People of God; and of the unity of the flock of Christ, in so far as it is assembled under one head."
"The individual bishops are the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches." As such, they "exercise their pastoral office over the portion of the People of God assigned to them," assisted by priests and deacons. But, as a member of the episcopal college, each bishop shares in the concern for all the Churches. The bishops exercise this care first "by ruling well their own Churches as portions of the universal Church," and so contributing "to the welfare of the whole Mystical Body, which, from another point of view, is a corporate body of Churches." They extend it especially to the poor, to those persecuted for the faith, as well as to missionaries who are working throughout the world.
Neighboring particular Churches who share the same culture form ecclesiastical provinces or larger groupings called patriarchates or regions. The bishops of these groupings can meet in synods or provincial councils. "In a like fashion, the episcopal conferences at the present time are in a position to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegiate spirit."

Gospel Wordsearch