21st Sunday in Ordinary Time [a]

Engaging Faith | Fri, Aug 12, 2011

By John Bucki, S.J.
Source: Center of Concern

This weeks scriptures focus on authority and power in the Christian community and society at large.

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time [a]

August 21, 2011




     Isaiah 22:19-23


     Romans 11:33-36


     Matthew 16:13-20






August 1 to 29: approximate dates for the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan


August 23: International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition


August 26: Women’s Equality Day in the United States








Christian love of neighbor and justice cannot be separated. For love implies an absolute demand for justice, namely a recognition of the dignity and rights of one's neighbor.


Justice in the World, 34




Church has the right, indeed the duty, to proclaim justice on the social, national and international level, and to denounce instances of injustice, when the fundamental rights of people and their very salvation demand it. …. Her mission involves defending and promoting the dignity and fundamental rights of the human person.    Our mission demands that we should courageously denounce injustice, with charity, prudence and firmness, in sincere dialogue with all parties concerned.


Justice in the World, 36, 37




Can an individual find complete fulfillment without taking account of his social nature, that is, his being "with" and "for" others? …  Each person, in some way, is called to work for the common good, constantly looking out for the good of others as if it were his own.


John Paul II, 1 January 2005, Message for World Day for Peace




The theology and spirituality of communion encourage a fruitful dialogue between Pastors and faithful. …  To this end, we need to make our own the ancient pastoral wisdom which, without prejudice to their authority, encouraged Pastors to listen more widely to the entire People of God. Significant is Saint Benedict's reminder to the Abbot of a monastery, inviting him to consult even the youngest members of the community: "By the Lord's inspiration, it is often a younger person who knows what is best." And Saint Paulinus of Nola urges: "Let us listen to what all the faithful say, because in every one of them the Spirit of God breathes.”


John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte 45,



Thoughts for your consideration




In today’s scriptures, authority is presented as something that comes from God.  In Isaiah, God is depicted as the one removing Shebna from power and giving power and authority to Eliakim.  In the gospel, Jesus is the one who gives authority to Peter. 




We might ask ourselves, what kind of authority is God interested in giving? 


What is this authority coming from God and being given by Jesus to Peter? 


What is the type of authority and power and that is given to us by God?


How are we to use this gift?




Scholars believe that Shebna was to be removed as prime minister because he advocated a revolt against Assyria and an alliance with Egypt instead of maintaining a peaceful policy of noninvolvement and fidelity to God.  Peter gets authority after he affirms Jesus as the anointed of God – the Christ.




The authority that comes from God is not the authority of power politics or military and economic might. It is not the cult of the self-absorbed charismatic person of power or the person with the big ego.  It is not the authority of power over, but the authority of service and the common good. It is a spirit and call that comes from God and seeks to listen, serve, connect with people, be in solidarity with the poor and powerless, act with creative nonviolence, speak up for justice with courage, and set free all people.  Any other spirit is not from God. This must be the spirit that we share as the people of God.  This must be the spirit of our church.






Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group




Have you experienced any people in authority who seem to embody the spirit of a healthy Christian authority from God? What did they do to embody this good authority? How did they act?






What are examples of authority in our contemporary world that do not embody the spirit of good and healthy leadership and authority?








King Pyrrhus of Epirus was approached by his friend Cyneas and asked, "If you conquer Rome, what will you do next, sir?"


Pyrrhus replied, "Sicily is next door and will be easy to take."


"And what shall we do after Sicily is taken?"


"Then we will move over to Africa and sack Carthage."


"And after Carthage, sir?"


"The turn of Greece will come."


"And what, may I ask, will the fruit of all these conquests be?"


"Then," said Pyrrhus, "we can sit down and enjoy ourselves."


"Can we not," said Cyneas, "enjoy ourselves now?"




Actions - Links




On August 26, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, which was designated in 1971 by the US Congress.  The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. This was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York. The observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality.  Read the 1998 proclamation by the president at  For more info visit




Ø  Violence against Women   The healthy use of authority respects the rights and dignity of all people.  Good authority does not abuse others, but respects the rights and dignity of all people. For some info from the US Bishops go to




Ø  On December 18, 1979, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).   Almost all countries have ratified CEDAW - 186 out of 193 countries. Only seven have not ratified including the United States, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, and three small Pacific Island nations (Nauru, Palau and Tonga). For info and to advocate on this treaty go to




Ø  The Girl Effect is defined as “The unique potential of 600 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.” Find out more at










August 23 is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, however Human Trafficking still goes on in our world. “The Stop Trafficking newsletter, hosted by the STOP ENSLAVEMENT web domain, serves as a forum for exchange among religious congregations and their collaborating organizations:
• to promote awareness re. human trafficking;


• to exchange best practices in advocacy for and empowerment of survivors of human trafficking;


• to recommend actions to counter human trafficking.


Check out their web site and consider action at 






“Crazy Facts”




The percentage of parliamentary seats occupied by women in various nations of the world can be found at




A report from the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicates that in the United States, one in four women has been physically assaulted or raped by an intimate partner.




Prayers of Intercession


Response:  God, send us your Spirit.


God, may we learn again to treat all people with dignity and respect. We pray….


God, may we replace war with peace. We pray….


God, may we replace ego and self-centeredness with listening, dialogue, and service. We pray….


God, may we create a society that respects all women and men with equal opportunity for all.  We pray….


God, may we have the courage to speak up for what is right and just. We pray….


God, may we have leaders who use their authority for the good of all. We pray….


God, may all our actions be filled with the non-violent, loving spirit of Jesus.  We pray ….


God, may we serve one another, especially those most in need. We pray….








May Christ banish from the hearts of all people whatever might endanger peace, may Christ transform them into witnesses of truth, justice and love. May Christ enlighten the rulers of peoples so that in addition to their solicitude for the proper welfare of their citizens, they may guarantee and defend the great gift of peace; may Christ enkindle the wills of all, so that they may overcome the barriers that divide, cherish the bonds of mutual charity, understand others, and pardon those who have done them wrong; by virtue of this action, may all peoples of the earth become as brothers and sisters, and may the most longed-for peace blossom forth and reign always among them.


Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 171








Prayer for Those Affected by Physical, Sexual, Political or Emotional Violence


By The Rev. Patricia Sandra Horton, Birmingham, Alabama, USA








The Archdiocese of Detroit has a page on Family Violence including some prayers. Go to: to check out the prayers.




PDF icon 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time [a].pdf207.49 KB