Sunday, May 14, 2017

Homily for Today

My brothers and sisters in Christ, during today's Second Reading from The First Letter of Peter, you have all heard it said that "You are a royal priesthood." [1 Pet. 2:9] What does it mean that "You are a royal priesthood"? To understand the meaning of this title, it is necessary to review the meaning of each word individually and then combined together.

The first word "royal" is associated with the highest rank that is found in society. If you were a prince or a princess, you would be considered of royal blood. But if you were the king or the queen, you would enjoy the highest title in society, being equal to the president or the prime minister of a nation. Therefore, to have the word "royal" associated with your name, it would mean that somehow, you are related to a king or a queen.

The word priesthood is traced to the descendants of Levi, the third son of Jacob by Lia. The whole tribe of Levi by the command of God was set apart for the service of the sanctuary. Therefore in the apportionment of the land of Chanaan, the tribe of Levi received no tribal territory [Jos. 13]. In lieu of land they received the tithes and also four cities with suburban pasture lands from each of the other tribes of Israel. As most of their duties required a man's full strength, the Levites usually entered active service at 30. At the exodus from Egypt the male descendants of Levi from a month old and upward numbered 22,000. In the journey through the wilderness the number of the Levites from 30 years up to 50 years, the year of superannuation, was 8580. [Numb. 4]

In Exodus 40:12-5, we read that God commanded Moses to set Aaron and his sons apart and to anoint them so that they may serve Him as priests, going from generation to generation. Their anointing would admit them to a perpetual priesthood. From this, we learn that those who belonged to the priesthood, a class that had been set apart in society, had been personally chosen by God to serve Him in a perpetual priesthood.

When combining both words, "royal" and "priesthood," we learn that those who possess that title are persons of royal blood who have been personally chosen by God to serve Him in a perpetual priesthood that enjoys a different status in society.

Turning to the Gospel of John, we learn that Jesus commanded the Sacrament of Baptism as a condition to being admitted into the Kingdom of God. He said, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit." [Jn. 3:5] Turning to the First Letter of John, we read that the seed of God abides in those who are born of God. [1 Jn. 3:9]

From this additional knowledge we learn that those who have been baptized and admitted into the mystical Body of Christ that forms the spiritual Kingdom of God on earth, their royal blood is traced to the seed of God.

I am sure that everyone will agree that as children belong to the human genus, kittens belong to the cats genus and puppies belong to the dog genus. Equally those who have answered their Divine calling through faith in Jesus and who have been baptized, they have become royal priests who belong to the genus of God. Since their existence had a beginning and they do not possess the Divine power of the Lord that is manifested through the Holy Spirit, they cannot be called gods. Their reception into the Divine genus comes from having been adopted as children of God through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He freely bestows on His children us in the Beloved. [Eph. 1:5-6]

Therefore, those who belong to the royal priesthood, they enjoy a greater status than that of a worldly king or a worldly queen. Their status is raised to that of a heavenly gods. Is it not written, "I say, 'You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you.'" [Ps. 82:6; Jn. 10:34]

With this understanding of the royal priesthood, it is now easier to understand the part of the Second Reading that said, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." [1 Pet. 2:9]

Now someone may claim that the written Word regarding the children of the Most High being gods may have been said to the Jewish nation that was God's chosen people. On that subject, St. Paul tells us, "So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumblings salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!" [Rom. 11:11-12]

Through the stumbling of God's first chosen nation, the door was opened to all, that they may become part of God's elect, no matter their age, their race, their education, their culture or their nation. The Body of Christ is a unity that transcends all social barriers and distinctions. As the first chosen people of God was a "priestly kingdom and a holy nation" [Ex. 19:6; Mal. 3:17] the present Body of Christ is a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. Through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism, Christians are set apart and dedicated to the sacred order of things in the service of God. This is the mysterious beauty of the royal priesthood to which every Catholic belongs.

During today's First Reading, [Acts 6:1-7] we heard an account of the days when the royal priesthood was being established. More specifically, it was about the Hellenists, the Jewish people who only spoke "Greek." During this early phase of the founding of the Church, the widows of the Hellenists were being neglected in the daily distribution of the food. [Acts 6:1] This concern was brought to the attention of the twelve apostles. Consequently everyone gathered to review the concern. At that time, the apostles expressed that it was not right for them to neglect the prayers and preaching in order to ensure everyone has sufficient food. [Acts 6:2, 4] To resolve the problem, it was commanded that seven men of good standing be chosen, those who are full of the Spirit and wisdom. [Acts 6:3] And so it was done, Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Permenas, and Nicolaus, a convert of Antioch, were chosen.

From this account, it is revealed that God did not discriminate in His calling of members for the royal priesthood. The Apostles were Jewish. The Hellenists, although Jewish, only spoke Greek. And Nicolaus was a convert from Antioch. The language or residential area of the believers did not matter. As we heard, being of one mind, they solved their problem to ensure that the needs of all were being met without discrimination. This is what Christian love is all about. This is what the Catholic faith is all about, the best interest of Church, an open door policy to all who believe and a unity of mind.

Today's reading from the Gospel of John [Jn. 14:1-12] made reference to Jesus being "the way, and the truth, and the life." [Jn. 14:6] In other words, the way to find the truth and life as a royal priest is through Jesus. For their is only one Mediator between God and mankind. [1 Tim. 2:5]

Among other sayings, Jesus made a statement that has often been interpreted to mean that all Churches are equal. That saying was, "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" [Jn. 14:2] Those who have misinterpreted this passage have made the claim that all are called and belong to the royal priesthood, be they Catholic or not, be they baptized or not, having the Sacraments or not, having faith in Jesus Christ as the one Saviour or believing in a human prophet. Indeed, all are called, but not all necessarily belong to the royal priesthood.

When Jesus made this statement, it was to emphasize to His disciples that they should not worry when He will be gone. They will not be forgotten. Jesus made reference to two things, (1) there being many dwelling places in the Father's house, and (2) preparing a place for the apostles. These two references cannot be separated because they complement each other in understanding what Jesus was saying to them.

Prior to the perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb on the Holy Cross, the disciples did not have a place in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God had not been established as of yet. Their place was established after Jesus, the first fruit of those who died, glorious resurrected [1 Cor. 15:20] and established His Kingdom in Heaven and on earth. On the day of Pentecost, when the Lord Jesus breath the Holy Spirit upon His disciples [Acts 2:4] He prepared a place for His disciples in His Kingdom. As the Holy Spirit made His indwelling in each and everyone of the disciples, a place was prepared for them when their bodies became Temples of God. [1 Cor. 3:16]

In the Gospel of Luke, we find the Words of Jesus where He affirmed that the Kingdom of God is within the Christians. "And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come? he answered them, and said: 'The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say: Behold here, or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you.'" [Latin Vulgate: Lk. 17:20-1]

So when Jesus said that there were many dwelling places in the Father's house, He was telling the truth. We know that there is Heaven and there is purgatory. And then there are the thousands and thousands of Temples that are found in all the royal priests of the past, present and future Body of Christ. When Jesus made reference to going to prepare a place for the apostles, it was a reference to the sending of the Holy Spirit. It was a reference to preparing a Temple within the apostles for the Holy Spirit to make His indwelling in each and everyone of them.

In conclusion, to have been called as members of the royal priesthood of God is a very special and free blessing that is undeserved because of our sinful nature. This week, let us reflect on this blessing of being a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and god's own people. In thanksgiving, let us proclaim the mighty acts of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light. [1 Pet. 4:9]

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