Sunday Sermon for May 18, 2014, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts 6:1-7; 1 Pt 2:4-9; Jn 14 1-12
I always love reading the description of the first deacons that is listed in the first reading. These men were chosen, initially, because the Greek widows were being neglected in the daily distribution which was overseen by the Apostles themselves. Realizing that this task was taking them away from the greater task of praying and preaching, the Apostles sought help to carry out this daily duty toward the early Christian community. The requirements to bring the daily portions to the widows in the community were that the men must be reputable and filled with the Spirit and wisdom.
If this is what the early Church desired for those who carried out a relatively menial task, what should be the requirements of those who are called to something greater? With time the deacons were given liturgical functions, but their original purpose does not seem to have included this. This being the case, if someone today wants to be a Deacon or a Priest, the holiness of the individual should be the top priority. The same would be true of those called to the Consecrated Life, in whatever manner that might be.
However, contrary to what some may think, those called to the married state or those who are called to consecrate their single state, are also called to profound holiness. We can certainly understand why, for instance, a priest needs to be holy. But married couples are entrusted with the souls of one another and, most often, of children. The call to raise Saints requires that one be a Saint in order to provide an example to one’s children.
Notice that in the second reading St. Peter says of every one of us that we are to be as living stones (like Jesus Who is the living stone) and we are to be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood so that we can offer sacrifices acceptable to God. This is a far greater call that serving at table. What St. Peter is telling us in the first reading is that before one can do anything, he must be living according to the holiness of his call to be a Christian person. This being the case, it applies to all of us.
This is not possible merely by being baptized, or by just going to Sunday Mass or even by saying a couple of prayers every day. These are all necessary and assumed to be present as part of a greater holiness that is to be in each of us. If Jesus is the cornerstone and each person is to be built upon Him, this requires a union with Him and a dependence upon Him. Without Him we will either be out of line or we will fall. When I say this I am not speaking only of our salvation; I am talking about our day to day living.
In the Gospel today our Lord tells Philip that He, Jesus, is in the Father and the Father is in Him. Further on in this same chapter our Lord says that anyone who loves Him, the Father will love and that He and the Father would come to dwell in that person. He also prays in His High Priestly Prayer in John 17 that we would be one in Him as He is in the Father and the Father is in Him, so we would be in Him and He in us.
While this is a reality for anyone who is in the State of Grace, it is also only the foundation. God wants a spiritual house built. It cannot be built apart from the Lord, but it obviously requires us to be spiritual persons. If one is truly spiritual, going to Mass and saying prayers is assumed, as I mentioned above. But being a spiritual person means that everything we do should be about serving God and striving to do His will. Everything we do should be done with an eye toward Heaven.
Jesus said that He is the way; we can only get to Heaven through Him. But He also said that not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter into Heaven, but only the one who does the will of His Father in Heaven. This is why St. Paul uses the analogy of a race in which many runners take part, but only one wins. He says that we have to do everything we can to win the race.
If God gives you His grace and comes to dwell in you when you are in minimum state of holiness, just think of the heights to which He is calling you. Perhaps St. Peter says it the best: you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own. God wants you to be holy!
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.