21st Sunday of Ordinary time


Isaiah 22:19-23
Romans 11:33-36
Matthew 16:13-20


This Sunday’s readings emphasise God’s providence and loving care, expressed in unexpected and wondrous ways.  The reading from Isaiah concerns those who have the authority to lead and guard the people of Judah at a time of crisis, specifically the master of the royal household of Judah.  The prophet proclaims that an unworthy holder of that office will be replaced by one who is worthy, who ‘shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.’  The Psalm is an expression of profound faith in God’s providence and his care for his creation: ‘Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.’  In the reading from the Letter to the Romans, St Paul affirms the infinite depths of God’s providence – we cannot know the mind of God, but in faith, we love and trust God whom Jesus spoke of as ‘Abba’, ‘dear father’.  God’s providence is given a very specific form in the reading from Matthew’s Gospel: when Simon Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus calls him ‘this rock’, Peter (Greek, ‘Petros’).  We know that Peter would later deny Jesus but also die as a witness to Christ: he is a leader who has known failure and repentance.   As the church, which itself is a servant of all humanity, goes through history, whatever crisis it faces, it will always know that Christ has promised it a ‘rock’, a sign of unity and leadership, a Petrine ministry.

Robert Gascoigne is a parishioner at St Brigid’s, Marrickville.  He is a theologian who taught for many years at Australian Catholic University.