The other day, I was going to visit my doctor for an appointment. As I was driving there to Fairview Hospital, I parked on one of the side streets there. I was talking to somebody on the phone, returning phone calls, and doing messages while I was driving. I got out of my car. I had my phone in one hand and my briefcase with paperwork in the other hand. I went up and met with the doctor, and probably came back to my truck about an hour later. When I got back to my truck I heard an engine running near my truck. I thought, “That’s strange.” Then I realized it was my truck. My truck was running. I thought, “Why is my truck running?” I realized that I didn’t have my keys in my pocket. I opened my truck door, and I realized my keys are in the ignition. My truck has been running for the last hour, and nobody stole it. That was kind of nice.
It made me empathize with these poor priests who have to live with me. I will leave cereal boxes and other things out and not even realize that I’ve left something out. I can be so scatterbrained, yet I still have this ability to drive a car. I have this responsibility of having keys that will open a car. I have keys that will open a church. They always say with great responsibility comes great power.
I was reflecting on my own kind of stupidity and then on Peter – who receives the keys to the kingdom of heaven. We all know that Peter is not the brightest disciple, right? He does a lot of stupid things along the way. He asks the Lord a lot of dumb things. He tries to walk on water and sinks. Peter is human. He’s human and he’s fallible. Yet, God gives him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Through Peter those keys have been passed down from generation to generation to all of our popes. The popes that I’ve known in my lifetime, John Paul II, Pope Benedict, Pope Francis are all very different popes with very different personalities. Each of them have handed on the keys to each other.
Sometimes, we get criticized as Catholics. People say to us, “I don’t believe in the pope. Why do you need to have a pope?” When they say that I think, “We get to have a pope.” Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven to a person here on earth. That means he can open the kingdom of heaven for us. What an amazing gift that is! Yet people for some reason look at that as being a negative thing.
Now, our Holy Fathers are human. How do we reconcile this fact: our Holy Fathers are human, and they can sin. Pope Francis was being interviewed and asked, “Who are you? Who is Jorge Bergoglio?” He gave a simple answer, “I am a sinner.” Our Holy Father was saying that. He is a sinner, yet he’s been given this great responsibility. He has been given the keys to the kingdom of heaven. We should be grateful that we have, here on this earth, a Holy Father who has been given this great responsibility to open up the kingdom of heaven.
I’ve been given a great responsibility, and probably all of you have, of having keys to your house and keys to your car. You know that when you use that key you have the authority to open that door. The same is true for our Holy Father. He has the ability to open up for us the kingdom of heaven, which was handed down to him. I think if nothing else, we as Catholics really ought to be grateful that we have a Holy Father. We ought to be grateful that God has given somebody on this earth the keys that will open for us the kingdom of heaven.
The next time someone criticizes the pope, remind them that we get to have a pope. It’s amazing! We get to have this Holy Father here on earth who will open heaven up for us.
We hear Peter, who gets it wrong all the time, finally get it right. Jesus says to him, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter says to him, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Ultimately, the keys to the kingdom of heaven lead us to Jesus. The keys to the kingdom of heaven lead us to the truth. The keys unlock and reveal to us who Jesus is. He is the Christ, the son of the living God. If we follow him, if we enter into him, if we live with him, we will ultimately enter into eternal life. Jesus says the very powerful words, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.”
There’s so much untruth in our world today. There are so many lies, so much manipulation, and so much confusion. It’s amazing that we have someone we can look to for the truth. We can look to somebody for the answer. We can look to somebody who can help us know the way to the kingdom of heaven. God works with human people. He worked with Peter, he worked with John Paul II, he worked with Benedict, he works with Pope Francis, and he continues to work with all of us.
And, so, we give thanks. We give thanks that we have this wonderful gift of having a Holy Father, of having this good shepherd, who does have the keys to the kingdom of heaven, who can point us to Jesus, and who can reveal to us the truth of our lives.
It’s also important to remember that we have a responsibility, too, as Catholics, to make sure that we’re presenting the truth. We also participate in having this key, having this truth, which leads people to Jesus Christ. In our humanness, we are sometimes going to leave our truck running and leave it unlocked. But we are given a great responsibility. We are given a great revelation of the truth, and that truth is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is always safeguarded by our Holy Father, who holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven.