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ROUGH CUTS SUNDAY: Earthly kingdoms will fritter away

Today is Sunday, the 23rd of August; the 4th Sunday of the month. It is also the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Catholic Church liturgical calendar.

The Psalm for the day is, “Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.”

This Sunday’s 1st Reading is from Isaiah 22:19-23.

Thus says the Lord to Shebna, master of the palace: “I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut; when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family.

Today’s 2nd Reading is from Romans 11:33-36. It says:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways. For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given him anything! That he may be repaid? For him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.

This Sunday’s Gospel is from Mt 16:13-20. It is deals with Peter’s confession about Jesus.

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijiah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Something to reflect on:

We get a glimpse of one stark reality about powerful rulers in earthly kingdoms. They all come and go, and no earthly leader can rule forever. They all have to go after some time, and the ground on which their kingdoms stand is like sand washed away to the sea. No matter how powerful a leader may be, and no matter how many years he reigns, he will one day be forgotten.

Shebna served as the chief administrator in the court of King Hezekiah. Shebna dressed in a special white tunic with a sash wrapped around his waist. He was ion possession of a large wooden key that he carried on his shoulder. The key symbolized his authority over the whole town. The gates were locked at night and opened in the morning. As chief administrator, Shebna also ruled over the fortress, where the garrison was stationed at the town square. Most important of all, Shebna has the authority over the royal treasury that was heavily secured. He had almost absolute power over the kingdom, and only king Hezekiah was above him.

In Isaiah’s oracle, the prophet sees how Shebna will be deposed and die in exile. A new chief administrator will be appointed by the king in the person of Eliakim who will be responsible in protecting the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Isaiah compares him to the wooden or iron hooks that shepherds or soldiers fix into the ground and to which they tie the rope to hold the tent safely in place. If the pegs are driven well into the ground, the tent can stand secure. King Hezekiah’s kingdom will stand secure for a number of years, but like any earthly kingdom, it will fritter away.

NB: Our thanks to the St. Paul’s Publication, publisher of the book 365 Days with the Lord, a liturgical biblical diary 2020 edition. It is from this book that we source the Word of God we are sharing with our fellow faithful every Sunday.

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