21st Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A
MASTER OF THE PALACE
Security is a constant problem for those who gain power. The integrity of the royal palace in ancient Israel was under the eye of an official known as the "Master of the Palace." His major duty involved locking the doors at night. Complex locks were developed to hinder intruders. The Master of the palace wore keys on a belt or sash over his shoulders. Eventually he became the appointments secretary and controlled all access to the king.
Shebna was one of these officials in the early 7th century B.C. Apparently he had been found guilty of accepting bribes from those who wanted to talk to King Hezekiah. Isaiah fires him and replaces him with another man, Eliakim. He invests the latter in the insignia of office. It may be the inspiration for Peter's "keys".
THE PEBBLE THAT BECAME A ROCK
Some people have claimed that Jesus did not have a sense of humor because the is never shown laughing in the Bible. Actually, he told many jokes. They were puns, but these do not survive language translation. One of his best known witticisms is found in today's Gospel.
The Old Testament referred to a mysterious figure called "One like a Son of Man" This was synonym for "human-appearing". He would bring help from God. Jesus asks his apostles about current speculation on the figure's identity. The disciples give the most common guesses. Jesus then quizzes them why they haven't added his own person to the list. Only Simon Bar (son of) Jonah gets the point. He blurts out that Jesus must be the mystery man, the Messiah.
"Simon" means "pebble" in Hebrew. "Cephas" (or Peter) means "rock". Jesus makes a double pun. He says that the little pebble is going to be a big rock in his scheme of things.
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