You are a priest and can be a better one: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

chalice-and-patenWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year A), May 18, 2014, (1) provides insights into the Sunday Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: The faithful are a holy priesthood who offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ. Doctrine: The common priesthood of all the faithful. Practical application: Exercising the common priesthood of the faithful as laypersons.

To view the Lectionary 52 readings, click here.

Central Idea: The faithful are a holy priesthood who offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ

Reading 1 Acts 6:1-7

As the number of disciples continued to grow,
the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews
because their widows
were being neglected in the daily distribution.
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community,
so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit,
also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas,
and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
They presented these men to the apostles
who prayed and laid hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread,
and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly;
even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

  • To better serve the needs of the early Christian community in Jerusalem, the apostles gave seven men called deacons (literally, servants) a share in their ministry by the laying on of hands (ordination).
  • At this time the Twelve Apostles saw the work most proper to them to be as prayer and preaching, including development of the kerygma or basic proclamation of the Gospel.
  • Soon, deacons such as Stephen and Philip also became powerful evangelists.
  • Then, as now, evangelism is not limited to the Apostles or to bishops but is also the duty of priests, deacons, religious, and the laity.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19

R/ (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you or Alleluia

Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.

Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.

See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.

  • The Christian community should take care of our own members since our master “loves justice and right.”
  • Through the charitable work of Christians not just the Church’s own members but countless others are delivered from death and preserved in spite of famine and other disasters.

Reading 2 1 Pt 2:4-9

Beloved:
Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings
but chosen and precious in the sight of God,
and, like living stones,
let yourselves be built into a spiritual house
to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
For it says in Scripture:
Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion,
a cornerstone, chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame
.
Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone
, and
A stone that will make people stumble,
and a rock that will make them fall
.
They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.

You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people of his own,
so that you may announce the praises” of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

  • Christ is the most precious foundation stone of the building that is the Church. We, the members of the Church, are called to become precious stones in that building.
  • All of us—male and female, clerical and lay—are called “to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
    • When we offer all the circumstances and events of our lives, lived according to God’s will, assisted by his grace, we exercise this common priesthood of all the faithful.
  • Some reject Christ and necessarily (“as is their destiny”) stumble. Our job is to help them get back up so they can travel on the path illuminated by the light of Christ. Christ has no wish to be a stumbling block.

Gospel Jn 14:1-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.”

  • Here Our Lord speaks some of the most consoling words ever, both to the Apostles and to us.
  • He speaks as a person to persons who need friendship, love, true home, security, and life.
  • Christ has visibly left the world to prepare a mansion for us in heaven, and he will return for us and bring us to it.
  • “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
    • Nothing is more fundamental and precious than the fullness of life. Jesus Christ, being God, is that life, which he can give to us.
    • We need this to be true, and Jesus is the truth.
    • And we need to know the way to get this life, and Jesus is the way to it.
  • This mansion our Lord speaks of is not just a building which will be our hearts’ delight but it is first and foremost Christ himself.
    • This building will be built of “stone”: The cornerstone of Christ is “chosen and precious,” and the rest of the building will consist of us “living stones,” the redeemed.

Doctrine: The common priesthood of all the faithful

  • A fundamental teaching of the Second Vatican Council is that Christ is the supreme prophet, priest, and king. In his generosity, Christ gives his people a share in these “offices.” So, all the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ.
  • A priest mediates between God and man, offering a sacrifice to God on behalf of man. Christ is the perfect mediator because he is true God and true man. He was the priest who offered the sacrifice and he was the victim that was offered. His sacrifice was doing the will of his Father in everything.
  • Christ gives each baptized person a share in his priesthood so we can offer ourselves and all creation back to the Father.
    • “The baptized . . . are consecrated as . . . a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian man they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. Therefore all the disciples of Christ . . . should present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Everywhere on earth they must bear witness to Christ and give an answer to those who seek an account of that hope of eternal life which is in them.” (Lumen Gentium §10)
      • The matter of our sacrifice is “all those works which are those of the Christian man.” This means all the circumstances and events of our lives, not just the extraordinary but also the ordinary.
      • When we perform these works as followers of Christ we are also simultaneously proclaiming or witnessing Christ to our fellow men.

Practical Application: Exercising the common priesthood of the faithful as laypersons

  • Lumen Gentium summarizes how the faithful exercise their priesthood.
    • “[T]he faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist” (LG §10).
      • One practical application is for each person to offer himself and his life during the Offertory along with the bread and wine. One can also offer anyone else and their situation.
    • In addition, “They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity” (LG §10).
  • Lumen Gentium§ 11 then goes on to summarize how we share in the priesthood of Christ “through the sacraments and the exercise of the virtues.”
    • We receive grace in the sacraments to do God’s will. By exercising faith, hope, and charity, and prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, and all the other virtues, we carry out that will. In this way, we offer our lives back to God.
      • Through baptism we can worship God as sons of God and confess before the world the faith we have received.
      • Confirmation gives us the strength “to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ.”
      • In the Eucharistic sacrifice, we “offer the Divine Victim to God, and offer [ourselves] along with it,” revealing “the unity of the people of God.”
      • Through the sacrament of Penance, we “obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offence committed against Him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church.”
      • The “anointing of the sick . . . commends the sick to the suffering and glorified Lord” and helps them offer their suffering “freely with the passion and death of Christ.”
      • The “faithful who are consecrated by Holy Orders are appointed to feed the Church in Christ’s name with the word and the grace of God.”
      • Matrimony helps Christian spouses offer their entire married life. They raise up “new citizens of human society” and members of the Church.
  • With the assistance of these “means of salvation, all the faithful . . . are called by the Lord . . . to that perfect holiness whereby the Father Himself is perfect.”
  • The faithful are priests with Christ because they offer sacrifices. The sacrifices they offer are all the circumstances and events of their lives. The sacrifices are not only the difficulties of their lives, but also what is enjoyable.
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