Sunday Sermon for May 10, 2020, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts 6:1-7; 1 Pet 2:4-9; Jn 14:1-12
In the second reading today St. Peter tells us Jesus is a living stone; more than that, He is the cornerstone upon which we are all built. Regarding this building, St. Peter says we are being built into “a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” St. Peter tells us that this stone, Jesus, which is chosen and precious to God, is of value only for those who have faith. Without faith, Jesus is a stone rejected by the builders Who becomes a stumbling stone, a stone that makes them fall.
Before we look at the positive aspects of this truth about Who Jesus is and, therefore, who we are, we first need to recognize that faith in Jesus does not automatically remove our human weaknesses. In the first reading, for example, we are told about an event in the early Church where the Greek widows were being neglected by the Hebrew members of the community. They all had faith in God and in Jesus Himself, but that faith, by itself, did not remove the prejudice, favoritism, jealousy, lack of charity, and sinful tendencies inherent in our fallen selves.
This is important for us who have faith in God and I Jesus. We need to understand that our faith needs to grow and develop. Our faith can only develop through prayer and study, and through these means God conforms us to the teaching and example of our Lord. As St. Peter teaches us, we are to be like living stones, built upon Jesus, the Living Stone. If Jesus is our foundation and provides our direction, then we need to be conformed to Him. Otherwise, the edifice being built will look hideous, disjointed, and unbalanced. If we orient ourselves to the Cornerstone and allow ourselves to be confirmed to Christ, then the attributes we see in Jesus will be ours in this spiritual edifice: charity, peace, joy, etc.
Not only will the attributes of Jesus be ours if we are conformed to the Lord, but St. Peter says that in Jesus we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own to announce the praises of Him Who called us out of darkness into His own wonderful light. To begin with the last point, to be God’s own people who have been called out of darkness into His wonderful light, we need to recall our Lord’s words to His Apostles when He told them that where He was going, they could not go. However, in the Gospel reading He tells them they know the way where He is going. When Thomas asks about this, Jesus tells him that He Himself is the way, the truth, and the life.
This can be understood in two ways. The first is what will happen at the end of our earthly lives. Jesus says He is going to prepare a place for us and that He will come back to take us to be with Him. Jesus is the way to the Father, and there is no other. In other words, Jesus is the only way for anyone to get to Heaven and participate in the eternal life of God. However, until that time comes, we have already been freed from darkness and have been brought into the light of the Lord. Again, this can only happen in and through Jesus. We are baptized into Jesus, so we already share His life and the freedom from Satan, sin, and death He won for us.
Being the way to God, Jesus show us what it means to be a royal priesthood. First, this means we are kings and queens, sharing in the universal Kingship of Christ. Jesus is also our High Priest, so we share in His priesthood. The royal office is one of service while the priestly office is one of mediation and sacrifice. A royal priesthood, therefore, not only speaks of our dignity, but of our function. Like Jesus, we are to pray for others. Since we also participate in the work of redemption, we are to pray for the conversion of sinners and the salvation of souls.
Priests also offer sacrifice, so we are to participate in the sacrifice of Jesus. We exercise our priesthood through our sufferings and prayers offered to God. This is done most perfectly at Mass when we bring our sufferings and unite them with our Lord’s sacrifice at Mass. Then, receiving the fruit of that sacrifice in the Holy Eucharist, we grow in holiness and our conformity to the Lord. Uniting our prayer to our Lord’s we want to bring others out of darkness into His wonderful light. This is a holy priesthood, our offering of spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ!
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.