Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday 21A: "whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven": God reacts to sinful acts by giving to Peter the keys of divine Mercy

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The laws of physics are pretty predictable. The laws of human behavior, however, are not. Human reactions are sometimes entirely out of proportion to the event which provokes them. A reaction to a problem can present an entirely new problem in itself and sometimes may take the form of serious sin. Reaction to temptation which is consenting results in a cycle of frustration and unhappiness for the human person.

In the first reading we see God's reaction to Shebna's lack of action: he wasn't fulfilling his office so God pulled him down and put another in his place. God's purposes have been fulfilled in salvation history through human beings who must freely cooperate with God's will, whose reactions must reflect God's action of revealing Himself in order to bring about His will that all men be saved. But God will not be frustrated and He perseveres in love to call men and women back to Himself.

God's reaction to sin is always perfect and proportionate in forgiveness. But His grace is always superabundant: through His divine mercy grace is given to forgive and also to begin a process of healing from the effects of sin.

We see in the Gospel that through Christ the will of God for our salvation finds new impetus in a new office conferred upon Peter, whose new name reflects his mission: Peter is the Rock. He will serve as a foundation for God's plan in history which now takes place through the Church. How will this happen? God's mercy will be the holy and proportionate reaction to the sinful actions of men and women. God will stop the cycle of unhealthy reactions through the ministry of reconciliation conferred upon Peter to "bind and loose".

"Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: 'I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' The 'power of the keys' designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: 'Feed my sheep.' The power to 'bind and loose' connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom." (CCC 553)

The gift of the priesthood received through Peter and the apostles for the forgiveness of sins takes place particularly in confession. The holy reaction of God to forgive when we act sinfully continues His mission to save the world.

Sin if serious results in the loss of baptismal grace and if unrepented can result in eternal separation from God. The office of binding and loosing refers also to the forgiveness of serious sins after our baptism.

"After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles 'so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.' The apostles and their successors carry out this 'ministry of reconciliation,' not only by announcing to men God's forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ:

"[The Church] has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ's blood and the Holy Spirit's action. In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us." (CCC 981)

All of us at one time or another have frustrated God's plan for us through our sinful reactions to temptation. When we sin in a grave or serious way we cannot receive the Eucharist worthily or in a holy way but rather commit another sin: that of sacrilege. Confession is thus necessary after mortal or serious sin before returning to regular reception of the holy Eucharist.

Our reaction to sin must be the holy and healthy action of seeking sacramental confession at the earliest opportunity. In order to allow God's plan to be fulfilled we must go to the office of Peter in the Church, we must have the help of God whose reaction to sin is always an action of love: healing and forgiving grace.


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