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August 27, 2023: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isn’t it a bit weird that Catholics call the Pope “papa,” father? This Sunday provides us with essential Scriptural background on the papacy, the petrine office. Jesus gives Peter the “keys to the kingdom of heaven,” after witnessing to the special grace Peter has to know Jesus’ true identity. Many have pointed out that the “keys” refer back to the figure of Eliakim, King David’s prime minister. True enough. But notice this is not mere authority or power. It’s a family relationship. The Lord says to Eliakim, “He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 22:21). David’s prime minister was a spiritual father to the family of Israel. Peter, and his successors, will be spiritual fathers in the family of the Church.

This means we have a serious obligation to not only recognize the Pope’s authority, but also to love him with the affection of children for their papa. We should never speak about him with disrespect or rancor. We should listen to him with trusting hearts, and ignore the slander thrown at him in various media. When we show the world we are loving and obedient to our Holy Papa, perhaps they’ll see more clearly that the Church is indeed God’s beloved family.

— Father John Muir



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