Unlocking our hearts for God

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August 23, 2020 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/082320.cfm)

Homily

Do you use passwords or codes for your smartphones? I am sure most of us have done this. Others might have used a simple code to easily unlock their phone. Others must have used a complicated combination of numbers. Others could have also used the “touch ID” using the finger prints. There are also other systems that use face recognition where one has just to face the camera to unlock.

Having passwords or codes are true not just with our smartphones. We also have passwords, key cards or just the traditional keys for our cars, doors of our rooms and offices. Every day we use them and they have become part of our way of life.

Keys and passwords are indeed very important because aside from having access to most personal and confidential things, we have the assurance of security and at the same time a reminder of our responsibilities.

Aside from these, however, there are also aspects in our life that we choose to close and lock perhaps as our way of protecting ourselves or from distancing from others.

For instance, a person who had a painful memory in the past may choose to lock that painful past because it was too much to bear. We suppress the memory in forgetfulness yet it comes up when we are triggered. However, what actually happens when we do this to ourselves, is that, we become prisoners of our painful past.

Moreover, our heart is the entry point of all our relationships. When we experience pain, the more we close our hearts and restrictive in opening up for others to come. Like for example, a person who experienced the pain of betrayal from a loved one may become suspicious and untrusting the next time the person develops another relationship. This is a kind of defense mechanism to people who have been hurt and so made the heart closed and restrictive.

The key to a memory overwhelmed trauma and to a bruised heart because of betrayal is healing from the pain through forgiveness and reconciliation.

Having this in mind, allow me to bring you deeper that we may discover together how God invites us this Sunday by reminding us of the simple things that we have, the keys to lock and unlock things.

In today’s Gospel, we have heard Jesus telling Simon, son of Jonah, that he has been given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Simon has been given the role to lock and unlock the gates of the kingdom.

As Jesus entrusted to Simon the keys, let us first see a bit deeper the event and the very circumstance that led us to the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The gospel of Matthew told us that Jesus asked his disciples personal questions. The first question was on the perceptions of the people about him, the Son of Man. The disciples told Jesus that the people believed that he was the resurrected John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Jeremiah or just one of the prophets. These answers revealed that despite the miracles done by Jesus, the people perceived him as a different person. The people in many ways did not understand yet the very identity of Jesus.

Thus, Jesus reformulated the question and directed it to his disciples. It was Simon, speaking in behalf of the group, who answered Jesus. Simon here is the image of all other disciples, including us today.

As the Gospels tell us, the person of Simon was characterized by being hesitant, doubtful, fearful and sometimes inconsistent. In the scriptures, we find him having doubts as he was invited by Jesus to walk on water. He was also called by Jesus to get behind him because he refused to believe that Jesus should undergo suffering. He ran and hid himself when Jesus was arrested and even denied him three times when he was questioned by the people.

However, what was redeeming for Simon was his “openness” to the invitations of God. This explains to us why he immediately followed the Lord when his brother Andrew brought him to Jesus. This openness of Simon allowed him also to intimately recognize and know Jesus in the most profound way. That is why, when Jesus asked his disciples about their perception of him, Simon boldly professed that Jesus is the “Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Simon did not depend on the perception of others about Jesus, who thought that Jesus was merely a teacher or some sort of a magician or a resurrected old prophet. No! Simon, like the rest of the disciples, had a personal encounter with Jesus and thus, he recognized the Lord.

Though Simon was an imperfect disciple but God revealed himself to him because Simon was open to God. This tells us that knowing Jesus does not rely on human reason but through divine revelation. But remember also, this divine revelation unfolds through our human experience and personal encounter with Jesus.

And thus, Jesus called Simon to follow and to serve in the best way Simon could serve God. This call from Jesus has two important points.

First, through the openness of Simon, Jesus gave him another name, Kephas or Rock or Peter. This means a responsibility has been given by the Lord to Simon Peter to lead the Church.

Second, through the personal encounter of Simon Peter with Jesus and that deep relationship with God, Simon Peter was entrusted with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. This tells us of the authority given to Simon Peter who is considered as our first Pope, to unlock and lock, to grant access and prohibit the doors of heaven.

This tells us too that Peter holds not just the key of God’s house, but of God’s heart. Jesus is telling us today that through the person of Simon Peter, we are also called to see ourselves in him and find God’s invitation of us today.

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Thus, many times, we will find ourselves hesitant, doubtful, fearful and inconsistent. These attitudes would surely make our hearts locked and disallowing God to come and to transform us.

Like Peter, we are called today to go beyond from these restricting attitudes of our hearts and begin to open up for God and for others. We can only do this when we also acknowledge that we are weak, inadequate and sinful. Then, we too acknowledge that we need help and we need God to transform and renew us.

Like Peter too, we shall be transformed and renewed as we develop a deeper relationship with God through personal encounters with Him in the scriptures, through our sacraments, and through the people around us.

In this way, we may courageously unlocked our closed hearts for others to come and bring more joy in us and for God to transform and renew and bring more life to us. Hinaut pa.

Jom Baring, CSsR

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A Dose of God Today

A-Dose-of-God-Today : Your Daily Spiritual Nourishment, tries to put into words the thoughts and experiences of the wonder of life through the Holy Scriptures and the many invitations of God today.

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