Deacon Cornellís Homily


Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19
1 Corinthians 12:31—13:13 or 13:4-13
Luke 4:21-30


January 30-31, 2010 - Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C

For a little over a month now we have included in the Prayers of the Faithful a petition for the restoration of communion under both species. As most of you probably know, as part of a series of precautionary measures issued by the Archdiocese of Boston in the light of the H1N1 flu epidemic, the Cardinal asked parishes temporarily to stop offering communion from the cup, the precious blood. Some people might say what is the big deal since Christ is fully present in either form. While that is true, I think it makes a lot of sense to pray for the restoration of the fullness of this sacrament. At the most superficial level, it would mean that the perceived danger from the swine flu has abated and that is a good thing. On a more serious level, Jesus commanded us to "Take and eat; take and drink." He didn't command us to take and eat, and then suggest that as an option, if we were not too scared about other people's germs, to take and drink.

All our speaking and praying uses symbols to lead us to the reality of God; a reality that no one symbol fully describes, that all the symbols together cannot describe. The Church teaches us that Christ is fully present in the assembly and in the Word and in the presider during mass but I don't think anyone would seriously say that therefore we don't need the consecrated bread and wine. Each of those physical realities opens up a slightly different window to the ineffable reality of God. For example, receiving communion under the species of the consecrated bread brings to the forefront the care that God has for us by feeding us real food, physical and at the same time spiritual. Through it, God gives us the strength we need to be the Body of Christ. Receiving under the species of the consecrated wine, the precious blood, brings to the forefront the reality that Christ emptied himself first of his divine glory, and then his human life by pouring out his blood. And it reminds us that, as disciples, we are called to do the same.

Our Gospel readings, last week and this, focus on the same aspect of Jesus mission. As many of you have heard again and again as we celebrate Baptisms during our weekend masses, as Catholics we are not only baptized in the waters of the font but we are anointed with chrism as priest, prophet and king, following Christ's footsteps. Many of us are very comfortable with the roles of king and prophet but are not sure when it comes to priest.

Last week we heard that Jesus had returned to his hometown area of Galilee and was curing people and teaching with such authority that people were amazed. Curing and otherwise caring for people belongs to the role of king: the one who takes care of his people like a shepherd his flock. Part of the role of prophet is teaching and proclaiming the good news as Jesus did in the synagogue as we heard in last week's Gospel. But today we hear him start to experience the shift from the prophet who proclaims the good news part of God's truth to the prophet who challenges the people when there is injustice, and then to the priest who offers acceptable sacrifice to God, and in Jesus' case, is also the victim. Everyone was comfortable and supportive when Jesus was curing and teaching and proclaiming God's care, but they turned on Jesus and try to kill him when he challenged them to live as God wants them, and pointed out where they were falling short. The crowd went from admiration to rejection and then to violence.

As with almost any initiation, Christian initiation through baptism, confirmation, and eucharist is a two way interaction. We are incorporated into the body of Christ with all the grace that implies. But we are also challenged to live as priest, prophet, and king. Not just king, or prophet. But all three. Priesthood, be it the ordained variety, or the baptismal variety is a ministry of love. Not just some vague, romantic notion of love but the real life, nitty gritty, down and dirty kind of love that Paul describes in that letter to the Corinthians. This is by far the most requested second reading for weddings. It sounds so beautiful and joyful and elegant when proclaimed in the marriage liturgy with everyone smiling and happy and dressed up. I suggest that it sounds very different when you are in the middle of a heated argument with your spouse, or you have been hurt by what someone close to you has done, or you have been rejected by the one you love. Here it is that only true love shows that it is patient, and kind, and not jealous. Here it is that only true love makes it possible even to think of the other one's interest, and not brood over injury. Here it is only true love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. I mean all things, the bad and the ugly as well as the good. That is priestly work.

In his true humanity, Jesus had to work into his priestly role. Starting with the rejection and attacks of his hometown neighbors, to the rejection and fear of the rulers, the abandonment by most of his closest companions (thank God for the women who stayed close), to the final inevitable effect of staying true to his Father's work: torture and death. Christ the high priest offers the perfect sacrifice of love, his own body broken, his own blood poured out. Love that never did fail; love that never will fail.

And we are called to the same priestly role. Yes we are fed by the bread of life but we are also challenged by the cup of salvation to pour out our own love. For most of us this is not played out on any grand stage but in the day to day living in our families and communities. It is so easy to be the teacher, and even the servant king, caring for others. But to be priest like Christ where we not only offer the sacrifice but are the victim, pouring out our own blood, and to do that lovingly as Paul describes it, I would suggest is the hardest thing we are called to do as Christians. To remain patient and kind in the face of rejection. To rejoice in truth in the face of our own anger and real injury to us.

Saving waters, sacred Chrism, precious body, precious blood; we need all of them. As Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so may we live always as members of his body, sharing everlasting life.

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