Sunday, April 20, 2008

Be Built into the Holy Priesthood of God.

This was the homily I preached on 20 April 2008:

1. Among those who follow Jesus Christ, there are two kinds of priesthood. The more familiar kind is the ministerial priesthood. That is the priesthood of the ordained ministers such as the bishop and myself. The ministerial priesthood is a sharing in the high priesthood of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd for the purposes of teaching, sanctifying, and leading the flock of the Lord. Ministerial priests are men chosen from among the people of God and set apart for ministry, just as Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas were set apart to receive the laying on of hands.

2. A ministerial priests acts in the person of Christ in the administration of the Sacraments. It is true that we exercise great power and authority, but it is not our own power or our own authority, but that which belongs to Jesus. I first felt a call to the priesthood when I was 6 years old. But the Lord did not really get my attention until I was already 31 years old. In my case, there were many lessons to be learned before I was ready to hear His call. I have to say that I have never regretted being a priest. And I would suggest that many of our young men pray about it with an open heart. It is a great life serving God and making a real difference in the world.

3. When Saint Peter is referring to the priesthood in the second reading, however, he is not talking about the ministerial priesthood, which nevertheless is absolutely necessary for the Church. Saint Peter speaks of the common priesthood of all Christians. That is the Royal Priesthood that we have been made part of by virtue our Baptism. The Royal Priesthood and the Ministerial Priesthood are different, but not by degrees. That is, an Ordained Priest is not “more priest” a member of the Royal priesthood. It is a different kind, although related. For every baptized person is a member of the Royal Priest- you and I both.

4. The Royal Priesthood is significant. In the old Covenant, all the families were to be priestly families. That is, their sons were to be chosen as priests for offering the acceptable sacrifices. After the people had worshiped the golden calf, God took away the priesthood from all but one family. Therefore, for every person to be built up into the Royal Priesthood is a fulfillment of God’s original plan for the whole world, that each family, each person, would be precious in His sight. For that reason Saint Peter exhorts the people to let themselves be built up into the holy Priesthood.

5. The purpose of this Common Priesthood of all believers is so that we can offer a spiritual sacrifice acceptable to God. Offering sacrifice is a fundamental activity of a priestly family. By our Baptism, we are called to continually offer these spiritual sacrifices to the Lord. The spiritual sacrifices which we are called to make are : prayers praise and adoration of God (in the Holy Mass, it is crucial to participate, in particular to say the "Amen," which is a prayer reserved to the assembly of the people). Not all spiritual sacrifices are invisible or intangible, for example the paying of the tithe and sharing in the material goods is a spiritual sacrifice and a symbol of the sharing of ourselves. There is the offering of time spent with God and His people. In truth, everything that we do: at work, at play, at home, at school, whatever it is can be a sacrifice to God, if we lift it up to God and do our best.

6. Similar to the Ministerial Priesthood, the Royal Priest comes from Jesus Christ. As He offered Himself on the Cross for our sake, our most important sacrifice is the sacrifice of our total selves to God out of our Love for the good of His kingdom.

7. In order to make a sacrifice, however, one has to trust. When Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham had to trust God. When the priests of the old Covenant offered up the best lambs from the flock, they had to trust God. When a family begins to tithe on their income, they must trust that God will take care of them. When a man offers himself to the Ministerial priesthood, or a woman offers herself to the consecrated life, they must trust in the Lord. Fear is the enemy of true service of the Lord.

8. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us do not let your hearts be troubled, ... have faith in me. Jesus exhorted them by proclaiming that He alone is the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Jesus. So we need to trust in Him and follow Him.

9. In the Old Testament, the priests did not own land, because the Lord was supposed to be their sole possession. Although Jesus continues to permit us to own things, nevertheless, as His priestly people, Jesus calls us to have Him as our most prized possession. To know Jesus and to trust in Him, to become One with Him means that He will work from within us. If we would exercise our Baptismal priesthood, let us trust in the Lord and put all things into His hands so that we can witness His power.

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