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Gospel reflection

August 27, 2023: Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20 (Bible Translation: The Message by Eugene H. Peterson)

When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who are you, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

“And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is a yes in heaven. A no on earth is a no in heaven.”

He swore the disciples to secrecy. He made them promise they would tell no one that he was the Messiah.


“You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven.”

Keys have significance in my spiritual journey. In recent years, I have found and kept a number of unusual keys. I am a “notice” of doors and windows. I encounter them in my prayer life, writing and drawing. I have particular interest in very old ones. At times, I have awareness that doors or windows I notice are open and unlocked. At other times, they are closed and secured tightly. During periods of spiritual direction, my director has pointed to my use of door/window references as I describe my experience with God.

I believe the physical keys have meaning and connection to the doors and windows. When I find an unusual, old or seemingly out-of-place key, I gather it up. I imagine I will someday come to understand the use and meaning of each key. This passage gives me hope about what access to heaven and earth keys give to us.


Our spiritual imaginations are filled with symbols and images that serve as guides to our understanding of God. Share with the Providence Community a particular one that has been meaningful for you.

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Alice Shelton

Alice Shelton

Providence Associate Alice Shelton lives in Indianapolis with her husband John. She is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and enjoys her work as director of business services at Marian University.

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  1. Avatar Denise on August 27, 2023 at 8:13 am

    You’ve piqued my curiosity, Alice – about my own significant symbols. Thank you!

  2. Avatar Connie on August 27, 2023 at 12:04 pm

    Rocks have served as a significant symbol in my life. A rock in a creek with flowing water has endured times of quiet solitude while also having endured the storms and rushing waters, even at times being moved to the next place it was meant to travel. I see that same guidance from God in my life. Thank you for your words and reminding me of God’s presence in all that I am and do.

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