Sunday Sermon for May 14, 2017, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts 6:1-7; 1 Pt 2:4-9; Jn 14:1-12
In the first reading today we hear about the Apostles’ discernment regarding service to the community. It seems that at the beginning of the Church, the converts looked up to and trusted the Apostles. When there were not as many people to serve, the Apostles could do most everything that was needed to support the life of the community. There came a time, however, when they recognized that they were being stretched too thin and they followed the lead of the Holy Spirit Who gave them the grace to understand that there were ministries that were specific to the Apostles while others could perform some of the ministries the Apostles had been undertaking up to that time.
This discernment resulted in the realization that prayer and preaching were to be the tasks on which the Apostles were to put their focus. The members of the community were to choose seven men who were prayerful and and faithful to take over some of what the Apostles had been doing. This signified the beginning of the ministry of the deacon or, if we translate the word into English, the servant.
We are also told that there was a large number of priests who were becoming obedient to the faith. It is important to note that even those who were Jewish priests were being touched by the Holy Spirit to serve the Lord as Catholic Priests. It is to such men as these that St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews was written.
At the same time, we are reminded, in the second reading, that every baptized person is a priest. While the baptismal priesthood is a different kind of priesthood than that shared in by those who are ordained as priests, it is still a point of great importance. As St. Peter makes clear, each of us is called to be built up into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the cornerstone of this spiritual edifice and each of us is built upon Him. This, by itself, is a great privilege, but to know that we are all called not only to be part of the Temple, but to serve as priests in this Temple, is amazing.
St. Paul, when he speaks about our dignity, reminds us that we are each a Temple of the Holy Spirit Who dwells within us. As we know, where one Person of the Trinity is present, all three Persons are present, so we are actually Temples of the Most Holy Trinity Who dwells within us. This point is important to our present considerations because our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading today that the Father Who dwells within Jesus is doing His works. He then tells His Apostles that whoever believes in Him will do even greater works. These works are possible only because the Trinity dwells within us.
This also means that the grace is present for each of us to do the will of God. If we are able to get out of the way, God will be able to do great things in us and through us. After all, if we are, as St. Peter says, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own, so that we can announce His praises, then we have to be chosen by Someone and we have to be made holy by Someone. God has chosen you! That is a truth that is sometimes very difficult for us to accept. But it is the truth: God has chosen you.
He has chosen you to be a Temple wherein He dwells; He has chosen you to be a priest, a prophet, and a king serving Him within this Temple; He has chosen you to offer spiritual sacrifices within that Temple; He has chosen you to announce His praises. This is the reason He called us out of darkness and into His own wonderful light. This is not something we earned or deserved; it is His choice.
Now, however, we have a choice: we have to choose whether or not we will serve Him, offer spiritual sacrifices to Him, and announce His praises. These are the three offices of the king, the priest, and the prophet respectively. Each of us who is baptized into Jesus Christ participates in these offices and is called to this dignity. God has made the call, now He awaits our answer. Everything is established already by the Lord, all that remains is for us to answer His call and to become Saints. If we can do this, our Lord’s words will be fulfilled in us: we will do greater works than He did. To make us into Saints; that is truly a great work!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.