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Father to the People (21st Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Posted : Aug-26-2023

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This passage of Isaiah reveals something important about thegovernment of Judah during Old Testament times. Although the king was the true ruler of the country, he had a palace steward who ran the affairs of the palace. Such a role would be analogous to what we would think of as a prime minister, but even such an analogy falls short, as this palace steward has significantly more authority, since whatever he does, he does in the name of the king.


Here, an unfaithful steward named Shebna is deposed by God, and replaced by a more righteous man named Eliakim. The way he is described is quite significant: He is given a robe and authority, and will be called a father to the people of Judah (v. 21), he holds the key of David, which signifies the king’s authority, and it is said that he has the power to open and shut, which none can overrule (v. 22). Finally, he is called a tent peg, which means that he serves as a foundation for the tent of David, keeping the tent secure (v. 23).


It is no coincidence that in the Lectionary, this OT passage is paired with Matthew 16:13-20, as many of the features of Isaiah 22 are paralleled in that Gospel passage. Eliakim being given the key of David and the power to open and shut parallels Jesus giving St. Peter the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven to bind and loose (Matt. 16:19), and his being called a tent peg parallels Peter being called the rock on which the Church is built (Matt. 16:18).


By looking at the parallels between Isaiah 22 and Matthew 16, we can see that the government of Judah served as a foreshadowing of the government of the Church, with Peter as the new Eliakim. Just as Eliakim ran the king’s household and represented the king’s authority to his people, Peter and his successors run Christ’s household and represent Christ’s authority on earth. Thus, Isaiah 22 foreshadows the establishment of the Papacy.

J. Luis Dizon