I believe that those words are a U.S. nick name for bottle openers, particularly a can of beer or a bottle of wine. There is a great story told of Pope now Saint John XXIII during the turbulent 1960’s when it seemed that everything was falling apart. The priesthood was in crisis, religious life was in crisis, marriage was in crisis, faith was in crisis, the church was in crisis. One evening after an exhausting day in the office, it is said he went to his private chapel before retiring for the night but he was too agitated to focus let alone pray. After a few minutes of futile effort, he got up and said, “Lord, it’s your Church. I am going to bed!”
Difficulties often drive all of us to acknowledge that the great mystery, the church belongs to Christ. But the Master himself in Matthew’s Gospel noted it 2000 years ago “…on this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
St. Paul in Romans reminds the community that God is beyond our understanding and that no one can claim to have figured out the mind of God. But the tradition of our faith gives us some hints worth pondering. Isaiah’s account of the inauguration of a new palace steward by the prophet describes him given the keys for opening and closing doors of the house of David. In Matthew Gospel, Peter is given those keys in his great act of faith in God’s Messiah. The resilient faith of Peter can open the Reign of God in all kinds of messy human situations like conflict, impasse and hatred to justice, peace, mercy and truth. The original church key opens human interpersonal reconciliation.
Our lives get very complicated. We have given the keys for opening and closing many doors. The key to the reign of God has got to be more than just another one on our key chains. Our kindness to one another and attempts to speak the truth have immense power. They can open great mysteries. I think that the words Jesus addressed to Peter are also addressed to us. We need to hear Jesus appealing to the best within us. “You are rock…and upon you I will build my church!” Every human interaction is an opportunity to acknowledge just who it is Jesus says we are…and the keys entrusted to us.
A gentle week to all.
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM