Who would you trust with your keys (car keys, house keys, work keys)? How about a guy who doesn’t altogether trust you, who gets in your face, abandons you when you’re most in need, and finally denies knowing you? What — he wouldn’t be your first choice?
The disciple Peter fits the above description, yet Jesus entrusted him with “the keys to the kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus charged this floundering disciple with the task of leading a small, young church as it faced new challenges in a changing world. Although Peter became beautifully emboldened by the Spirit after Jesus’ resurrection, there was at least one moment in which he didn’t seem to know whether to open the doors to Heaven or keep them locked. This was the moment Paul turned up to insist that God’s plan of salvation included everyone, not only the Jews. At first Peter hesitated, those keys swinging uncertainly from his hand. After some heated debate, he unlocked the door.
The history of the papacy since then is not a gloriously sinless one. Some popes dropped the keys, some loaned them out, others nearly lost them altogether. Yet for all that, God has not taken those keys away. God has not eliminated the office of the papacy any more than God has withdrawn the Spirit he gave us all at our baptism. God sticks with us. What marvelous, extraordinary hope God has in us. Whatever other doors we knock on, whatever other rooms we enter, God will not lock us out of his kingdom. We need only turn back around and head for the right door. If we stand before it, truly yearning to know and love our Lord, that door will open.