Keys in your pocket, keys to your heart

Homily for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

These are not the keys to the kingdom of heaven!
However, they are the keys to my little corner
of the kingdom on earth.

Keys are important, these keys are important to me:
they open – and they keep shut.

Keys let some folks in and keys keep some folks out.

Keys are signs of trust and authority and responsibility.

We don’t freely give out the keys to our homes or cars
- let alone our safety deposit boxes!

After Mass today, the key to the tabernacle
where we reserve the Eucharist,
that key will be placed in a safe and the safe locked.

Keys keep important things secure -
like the keys to our hearts...

Sometimes we're slow to give away the key to our hearts
because in the past we shared that key too freely
and others took advantage of the access we gave them.

And everyone knows what it's like when you suddenly discover:
"I've lost my keys!"
You feel disconnected, lost- you panic!

Keys are important, whether we carry them on a key ring
or hide them under the welcome mat just outside our heart’s door.

And there are keys in the scriptures today.
Because King Hezekiah and Shebna, the master of the royal palace
have ignored the prophet’s advice
Isaiah tells them the key of their authority will be taken from them
and given to another, to Eliakim.

Keys, then, carry power
and those who hold the keys hold the power.
And that’s the story of the keys in the gospel today. 

Peter and, through Peter, the Church
are given a share in the power of Jesus
who offers us the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

Now, these aren’t keys that hang on a gold ring
somewhere in the Vatican
and they don’t fit the locks on some mystical gates outside heaven.
Rather, they are keys of grace given to bind and to loose,
to open and close, with the authority of Jesus himself.

If that’s difficult to imagine or grasp,
let’s think of the keys of grace that you and I carry all the time,
keys with the power to bind and loose, to open and close,
in our own lives and the lives of others.

• How many of us carry in our hearts the key of forgiveness
but are slow or even refuse to use that key
to open a door we’ve closed and locked shut
in the face of someone who has hurt us?
Do we bind and not loose those
who've trespassed against us?

• And are there some things, some desires, some affections
to which I should close and lock my heart
because those things have no place, 
serve no good purpose in my life?

• How many of us carry keys to resources we have in abundance,
bounty we’ve locked up for ourselves and our own,
while others in need go without the basic necessities of life?

• How many of us carry keys that lock some people out of our lives,
out of our social circles, out of our neighborhoods, out of our town?
Not everyone has, not everyone can get, a key to Concord.

• How many young people have locked their parents and families,
out of their lives and hearts?
 And how many older folks have locked out the young
because of their life styles and choices?

• What might be the gifts and talents that some of us have locked up,
hiding them, not sharing and using them for others?

• And of course, we all hold the key to our own heart
and we can become skilled at keeping our hearts locked up tight.

Of course the Lord has a master key to the hearts of us all
but he doesn’t often use it to barge in on us.
Rather, he waits patiently at our heart’s door,
waiting for us to turn the lock from the inside
and open up and invite him in.

So, what keys do I hold? 
What do they open and what do they keep locked in?
Over whose hearts and lives do my keys have power
to bind and to loose, to open and close?
What and whom am I opening up to?
What and whom do I lock out?

Perhaps the most important question of all:
what would be loosed in my life, what would be opened,
if I invited the Lord to use his master key 
and open my heart to him and to others, 
and especially to those in need?

In Jesus, God has unlocked and opened for us
the kingdom of his love and mercy
everything he has to give us. 
Here at this altar, the Lord unlocks the banquet hall of heaven
and invites us all to take a place at his table
where he gives us his life as he gave it on the Cross,
but now in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

May the Eucharist unlock and open our hearts 
to the love God has for us
and may it move us to unlock and open our hearts 
to God and to one another.


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