21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Sunday August 23, 2026

Mass Readings for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

  • First ReadingIsaiah 22:19-23: The LORD declares that He will remove Shebna from his position and replace him with Eliakim. Eliakim will have authority and be like a trusted peg, honored by his family.
  • Responsorial PsalmPsalm 138: I thank the LORD wholeheartedly, acknowledging that He hears me. I praise Him among angels and worship in His temple. His love is eternal, and He never abandons His creations.
  • Second ReadingRomans 11:33-36: The vastness of God's wisdom and knowledge is incomprehensible. No one can fully understand His mind or advise Him. Everything originates from and exists for Him. Glory to Him eternally.
  • Gospel - Matthew 16:13-20: Jesus asks who people say He is. Peter proclaims Him as Christ, Son of God. Jesus blesses Peter, declaring him foundation of His church, giving him authority over heaven's keys.

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

Themes for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

The readings for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A remind us that God’s wisdom is not the same as our own wisdom. In the first reading we hear that God has the power to remove the mighty from their positions of leadership. In the second reading Paul tells us that we cannot know the mind of God, as his wisdom and knowledge are beyond us. And in the gospel s that Jesus is the Christ, and Jesus declares that this is a revelation from the Father.

  • Authority: In this passage, Jesus engages His disciples in a conversation about His identity. He asks them who people say He is and then asks them directly who they believe Him to be. Through this dialogue, Jesus affirms His authority as the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
  • Faith: Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, demonstrates a significant act of faith. This confession reveals Peter's recognition of Jesus' divine nature and purpose.
  • Prayer: Jesus' response to Peter's confession highlights the role of divine revelation in understanding spiritual truths. He acknowledges that Peter's confession was revealed to him by the Father in heaven, emphasizing the importance of prayerful communion with God.
  • Primacy of Peter: Jesus' declaration that Peter is the "rock" upon which He will build His church and that He will give Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven signifies the primacy and leadership role assigned to Peter within the community of believers.
  • The Church's Formation: The passage alludes to the formation of the Church, with Jesus affirming its future establishment based on Peter's confession and leadership. This signifies the beginning of the community of believers that will grow from Christ's teachings.
  • Binding and Loosing: The authority to "bind and loose" granted to Peter symbolizes his role in guiding the Church by making decisions related to doctrine and discipline, highlighting the organizational structure and accountability within the early Church.

See the Homilies and Reflections section and the More Thoughts section for further expansion on these readings and some reflection questions for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A.

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Resources for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Hello. This Is Jesus – A Lesson Plan on Our Relationship with Jesus

On the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, the gospel raises a vital question from Jesus: "But who do you say that I am?" If we were to introduce Jesus to others, could we? How would we define Him? This reflection prompts us to ponder our perception of Jesus and our connection with Him. It encourages us to consider who Jesus is to us personally, urging us to evaluate our relationship with Him. This contemplation emphasizes the significance of understanding and articulating our beliefs about Jesus, ultimately deepening our spiritual connection and enriching our faith journey.

Ah So Co Game

On the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, the gospel features Peter acknowledging Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Although Peter isn't always perfect, he gets it right this time by saying the correct thing. The "Ah So Co" game is a lively circle activity that revolves around following instructions swiftly. This energizing game centers on both adhering to directions and executing actions accurately in a timely manner. Much like Peter's response, it underscores the significance of saying and doing the right things at the appropriate moments, engaging participants in a fun and interactive way that highlights the importance of attentiveness and accuracy.

Keys to Leadership Activity

The gospel for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, Matthew 16:13-20, unveils a pivotal moment where Jesus designates Peter as the cornerstone of His church, granting him authority over heaven's keys and establishing him as the first pope. This profound passage serves as the bedrock for the "Keys to Leadership" activity, which thoughtfully navigates the parallels between Peter's role and modern leadership. By engaging in this activity, participants delve into the essence of Peter's leadership journey, forging connections between scripture and their own experiences, while gaining valuable insights into the principles that underpin effective leadership within faith communities and beyond.

Prayer for Pope Francis, Our Holy Father

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, often seeks our prayers, being the successor of Peter. His first Instagram post was a simple plea, "Pray for me." In the gospel for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, Jesus designates Peter as the foundation of His Church, entrusting him with authority. This declaration establishes Peter as the first pope. Jesus pledges that His Church will withstand all challenges. Just as Peter was entrusted, let's support Pope Francis by offering our prayers. Just as the Gospel verse asserts, the power of the Church endures, and by praying for our Holy Father, we contribute to its strength and unity.

A Prayer of a Grateful Heart

The "Prayer of a Grateful Heart," inspired by Psalm 138, aligns with the responsorial psalm for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A. It expresses gratitude for God's caring presence. Despite feeling small in the world, we remain important to our Heavenly Father, who deeply cares. The prayer acknowledges this closeness and thanks the Lord with sincerity. It recognizes that even when we may not realize it, God is near, attentive to us. In moments of danger, God provides protection, holding us when we cannot save ourselves. This prayer emphasizes our heartfelt thankfulness for God's continuous presence and care.

Seeing the Big Picture Youth Ministry Game

The "Seeing the Big Picture" game aims to show youth that viewing things solely from a limited perspective can be confusing. Similarly, comprehending the Holy Spirit's guidance or Church teachings might be challenging. In the gospel for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, Peter grasps the broader view. Matthew 16:13-20 reveals this moment when Peter understands beyond the immediate. Just as the game promotes understanding through wider perspectives, Peter's insight encourages us to consider the larger context, aiding us in comprehending the spiritual journey and teachings of the Church.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Faith, Grace, and Righteousness

The Second Reading for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A is Romans 11:33-36. It emphasizes the unfathomable wisdom and knowledge of God, beyond human understanding. His mind is beyond counsel, and everything exists for Him. For more about this epistle, refer here. Applying Romans to life involves grappling with human nature and divine grace. It encourages moral living, unity, and compassion. The letter guides active faith, relying on God's mercy while pursuing righteousness.

Resources for the Gospel of Matthew

The Gospel for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A is from Matthew 16:13-20. Matthew's Gospel underscores faith and trust in God, showcasing Peter's interaction and confession that Jesus is the Christ. Resources deepen understanding of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. It shows that despite challenges, Jesus persevered, and his resurrection signifies victory through faith. His teachings cover the Kingdom of Heaven's nature, church dynamics, and community living.

Homilies and Reflections for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Sunday August 23, 2026

In this reflection by Jeff Cavins for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, the focus is on the authority of the papacy within the Church. Drawing from Isaiah 22 and Matthew 16, the reflection highlights the role of the prime minister in the Old Testament Kingdom of David and how this concept is fulfilled in the New Testament with Jesus establishing Peter as the rock upon which He builds His Church. The reflection underscores the keys of the kingdom being given to Peter, symbolizing authority to bind and loose, and emphasizes the unbroken chain of leadership through the papacy. The message encourages trust in the Church's guidance and calls for prayers for the pope's guidance and protection.

The Inscrutable God

In this homily by Bishop Robert Barron for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, the focus is on the mystery of God's judgments and ways. Reflecting on Paul's passage in Romans 11:33-36, Bishop Barron highlights the depth of God's wisdom and knowledge that goes beyond human comprehension. He presents theological dilemmas, such as reconciling divine foreknowledge and human freedom, God's universal desire for salvation and the reality of damnation, and the problem of innocent suffering. Embrace the mystery of God while continuing to seek understanding. It emphasizes the humility of surrendering to the inscrutable aspects of God's ways while still pursuing knowledge and seeking the divine.

No One Can Experience Jesus for You

In this homily by Father Richard Rohr for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, the focus is on the personal encounter with Jesus and the call to live out the Good News. Father Rohr emphasizes the significance of the disciples' personal experience and response to Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" Each individual must grapple with this question and truly encounter Jesus in their own way, not relying solely on external authorities. The same principles of the papacy apply to the entire community of believers. We must encounter Christ personally and to live out the Good News through love, rather than fear.

Oh, the Depths!

In this reflection for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, Scott Hahn explores the rich wisdom of God in today's readings. The Gospel reveals the heavenly Father's mystery of the kingdom to Peter, connecting the promises to David and the foundation of Jesus' Church, which is like a spiritual temple built upon Peter as the rock. This insight shows the deep connections between God's plan and the Church's role in fulfilling it.

Did Jesus Envision a Pope?

In this article, Dr. Andrew Swafford delves into whether Jesus intended to establish a Church with a papal structure. He explores the connection between the New Testament and Old Testament, highlighting how Jesus' words and actions fulfill Israel's story and its symbols, including the Davidic office of authority. The reflection emphasizes that the papacy is rooted in the teachings and actions of Jesus, ensuring the unity and guidance of the Church throughout history.

More Thoughts for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Authority and Humility

In the First Reading for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, the Lord speaks to Shebna, the master of the palace, and Eliakim, the chosen servant. Shebna's pride and misuse of authority lead to his removal, while Eliakim is granted his position. The Lord symbolically clothes Eliakim with Shebna's robe and sash, transferring authority to him.

Eliakim's humility is evident in his role. He becomes a father figure to Jerusalem's inhabitants and the house of Judah, representing guidance and care. The key placed upon his shoulder symbolizes his responsibility over the House of David, signifying his power to grant or deny access.

This reading teaches us about the balance between authority and humility. God rewards those who serve with humility and use their authority for the good of others. Like Eliakim, we should hold positions of honor while remaining grounded in humility, guiding and caring for others as entrusted by God.

Marveling at God's Wisdom

In the Second Reading for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, St. Paul reflects on the unfathomable riches, wisdom, and knowledge of God. The depth of God's judgments and His ways are beyond human comprehension.

Paul reminds us of the humility required before God's immense wisdom. No one can fully understand His mind or offer counsel to Him. God's gifts are freely given; nothing we offer can obligate Him.

"All things are from Him, through Him, and for Him." These words capture the essence of our existence in God's plan. Our purpose is to glorify Him forever. Paul's message invites us to stand in awe of God's wisdom and to recognize our place in His grand design.

Unveiling Our Understanding

In the Gospel Reading for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" Their responses show various perceptions of Jesus. But then He directs the question to them directly, "But who do you say that I am?"

Who do I think Jesus is? A divine vending machine? I put in Mass time and prayers and get out heavenly rewards. An accountant? I need to make sure that on my life balance sheet my good deeds add up to more than my bad ones. A sponge? I tell him everything that is bothering me in life and let him absorb it. No response required. The list can go on and on.

Understanding Jesus is complex. Often, we might see Him as a sort of divine transactional figure, an all-forgiving ledger, or a silent listener. Yet, truly knowing Jesus is not solely in our control; it's a revelation. Just as Peter's understanding unfolded, our comprehension of Jesus comes over time, through experiences and prayer. Just when we feel we've grasped it, a new encounter can transform our understanding.

Considering this reveals the evolving nature of our relationship with Jesus. It reminds us that while our perceptions of Him may change, the core of His love and purpose remains constant, waiting to be revealed to us as we journey through life.

Peter's Confession

In the Gospel Reading for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, Jesus takes his disciples to Caesarea Philippi and poses a crucial question: "Who do people say I am?" The disciples share various opinions, but Jesus presses them, asking, "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, boldly responds, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus blesses Peter's faith and reveals that this understanding comes from God. He renames Simon as Peter, which means "rock," symbolizing the foundation of the Church. Jesus promises that the forces of darkness will never conquer it. He grants Peter the authority of the keys to heaven, enabling him to make decisions with eternal implications.

This reading emphasizes the significance of Peter's confession, highlighting that faith in Jesus as the Messiah is the cornerstone of the Church. It establishes the primacy of Peter and teaches us to discern Christ's divinity and recognize that the Church's foundation rests on the truth Peter acknowledged.

Reflection Questions for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Sunday August 23, 2026
  • In the story of Shebna and Eliakim, how does pride affect one's use of authority? How does Eliakim's humility contrast with Shebna's attitude? How can we ensure that our authority is guided by humility?
  • How does the key placed on Eliakim's shoulder symbolize his authority and responsibility? What does it mean for us to be entrusted with authority in various aspects of our lives? How can we use our authority to benefit others?
  • In St. Paul's reflection on God's wisdom, why is humility emphasized before God's unfathomable knowledge? How do you personally approach the idea of standing in awe of God's wisdom and design?
  • What is the significance of Peter's confession in the Gospel reading? How does his proclamation shape the foundation of the Church? How does recognizing Jesus as the Son of God impact your own faith journey?
  • How do you perceive your relationship with Jesus? Do you find yourself approaching Him with certain expectations, like a divine vending machine or an accountant? How might these perceptions influence your understanding of faith and prayer?
  • How do you feel about the authority of the Church? Do you view it as a positive or challenging aspect of your spiritual life? How does your understanding of authority within the Church align with your faith and beliefs?
  • Reflect on your approach to sharing your faith with others. Do you focus on helping them encounter Jesus personally, or do you tend to dictate your perspective to them? How can you create an environment that encourages others to discover and deepen their own relationship with Jesus?
  • How have your encounters with Jesus evolved over time? Have there been moments when your perspective shifted or deepened? How do these experiences contribute to your ongoing understanding of Jesus and your faith?
  • How do you approach the idea of knowing Jesus? Do you believe it's solely within your power, or do you acknowledge the role of divine revelation? How might remaining open to ongoing encounters with Jesus enhance your spiritual journey?
  • In light of the reflection, what steps can you take to integrate humility and authority in your life? How can you grow in your understanding of Jesus and share that understanding with others? How might you deepen your appreciation for God's wisdom and design?

Quotes and Social Media Graphics for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

If you use the images below in any form, you must provide attribution to young-catholics.com. See details.

For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. - Romans 11:36
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. - Matthew 16:19

We hear Jesus’s question directed to each one of us: “And you, who do you say I am?”. It is a question of giving not a theoretical answer, but one that involves faith, that is, life, because faith is life!

Pope Francis

Frequently Asked Questions for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

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