This weekend’s scripture readings are filled with images of priesthood and the work of those who share in this vocation. Now, you may be presuming that I’m speaking merely of the ordained, ministerial priesthood and, while I am referring to their service as well, I’m particularly cognizant of the priesthood of the baptized. When the early community was gathered, the Apostles sought the service and discernment of all the disciples…of all the believers. And those who had faith shared their wisdom and their gifts with the community as they discerned the first brothers to diaconal ministry. They affirmed such discernment and offered those seven to the community as servants.
In our second reading, we hear that from our baptism, each one becomes a kind of living stone that, joined with other living stones, are planted together in order to become a new creation, a living and vibrant Church with Christ as our head and each of us as members. Yes, from our baptism we are then made priests of a new order…priests in service and in sacrifice.
Even our gospel reminds us that Christ–again and again–is asking us to place our faith in Him. Today, as we continue to form the Church, we are imperfect; yet, the Lord invites us still to offer our lives as priests…in sacrifice and in service. And while are offerings are “ordered” or “collected and received” by our ordained presbyters who then offer to the Father such wonderfully generous gifts, each of us are then able to receive a return from God: grace to continue our priestly work; sanctification for ourselves and the whole Church; nourishment from Christ as we share in His body and His blood.
So, I would imagine that a question may now spring forth: what kind of service or sacrifice is called for from each of the baptized as priests? I believe that in some very particular and unique way, each of us is called to place our particular talents and unique gifts into the community of all believers. For instance, as we seek to evangelize more and more into our world…sharing the great gift of the resurrected Christ with others, we may find that by our own words we become inviters or challengers of the environment in which we love, and move, and have our being. This may be just the simple impetus that is needed for some to feel welcomed into faith. Or perhaps we might cultivate a new joy that is rooted in our profession of faith…such a joy then becomes contagious and “infects” those with whom we come in contact each day. And maybe, just maybe, the gifts that we continually receive from God in order that we might be more and more converted to the message of the gospel could be a fountain of reflection from which springs waters of encouragement for those who doubt, those who have fear, those who do not know that faith in Christ is faith in the Living God.
There are lots of ways that we can exercise the priesthood of believers, they maybe sketchy or unclear to us at the present time, but one thing is certain: we are all given the gifts we each need to be priests of Christ Jesus. And the role of priesthood necessarily includes teaching, preaching and sanctifying. Do not let this vocation slip passed you: grasp it and enfold into your very life…that you, too, may share in the work of ‘living stones’ that establish the living Church of our living God.
God bless you always!