Christ continues to minister to us through his Priests

Homily for Fifteenth Sunday of Year B

by Fr. Tommy Lane

When we are ill we go to the doctor. When we need to get our car repaired we take it to the mechanic. When your pet gets sick you take it to the vet. When your computer doesn’t work properly you take it to the IT technician. There is someone who can help us in the various different ways in which we sometimes need help. God has also provided us with those who help us spiritually. The amazing thing is that God calls fellow humans to minister to our spiritual needs. God called prophets like Amos in the first reading (Amos 7:12-15) to preach his word. Christ sent out the twelve apostles in today’s Gospel (Mark 6:7-13) to preach and heal. They would be ordained the first priests during the Last Supper, and today God calls some to be priests to minister to our spiritual needs in the same way. God calls fellow humans to minister to us on his behalf because God takes our humanity seriously. Christ became one of us, flesh. We call this the Incarnation and this means that God takes our humanity seriously, perhaps more seriously than we may do ourselves. Because God takes our humanity seriously, God calls some of us to minister to us on his behalf.

In the first reading today (Amos 7:12-15), the prophet Amos was called by God to leave his work to go preach in Israel. We heard that Amos was rejected by the Jewish priest Amaziah but Amos said it was not his decision to leave his own country Judah in the south to go north to preach in Israel. He said he had been a shepherd and looked after sycamore trees. These sycamore trees are not like our sycamore trees here. Their fruit is a fig and each fig on the tree must be pierced to help it ripen. They are labor intensive trees. Amos said it was God who called him from that work to preach. God cared about Israel, cared about Israel because it was heading on the wrong track and so about the middle of the eighth century B.C. God sent Amos to warn his people to live by the covenant. As we heard, he was rejected but Amos’ warnings came to pass; in 722 B.C. Israel was invaded and lost its land and many of its people. God had called a humble shepherd and horticulturalist to preach his word to warn them, and Amos was later proved true.

Now in this time of the New Covenant God continues to look after our spiritual needs through fellow humans, our priests ordained in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. In the Gospel of Mark today (Mark 6:7-13) we see Jesus sending the apostles on a short mission. They would later be ordained the first priests during the Last Supper. He instructed them on simplicity of life and warned them that they could experience rejection. Then we read what they did: they preached repentance, cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them. When we read the chapters in Mark before this we see that this is exactly what Jesus himself did. Jesus began by preaching repentance, he cast out devils, and healed many people. What Jesus did before sending out the twelve is what we read the apostles do in the Gospel today when sent out by Jesus. So in effect Jesus carried on his ministry through the apostles when he sent them out, or we could say the apostles are an extension of the ministry of Jesus. Just as Jesus asked the apostles to minister to the spiritual needs of people in his time, God calls fellow humans, priests, to minister to our spiritual needs now. The bishops of today are the successors of those apostles, and priests are their assistants.

Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders are the three of the seven sacraments that can be received only once because they change the quality of your soul, they leave a permanent mark or seal on your soul, your life has a different quality afterwards. In Baptism we are washed clean of original sin and become children of God. The first time parents said to me after I baptized their baby that the baby was different from that day and quietened down I said to myself that it was a co-incidence. But that happened a number of times afterwards so I no longer said to myself that is a co-incidence. In Confirmation we are further strengthened to live the Christian life, and in Holy Orders a man is ordained a priest to belong to Christ and minister in his name and with the authority of Christ. So when a sick person is anointed by a priest with oil in the Sacrament of the Sick, the sick person sees the priest but really meets Christ. When we confess our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we hear the priest but it is Christ we meet. On Easter Sunday evening Christ gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins in his name saying, “those whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and those whose sins you retain are retained.” We see a priest celebrating Mass as Jesus said, “Do this in memory of me” but the chief celebrant of every Mass is Christ himself. When a priest blesses, it is the blessing of Christ that he gives. That is why it so often happens that people who are ill or facing difficult times in their lives ask a priest for his blessing because the blessing of a priest is the blessing of Christ.

God respects our humanity and calls fellow humans to minister to our spiritual needs. It takes humility on our part to allow God to minister to us through fellow humans whom he has called, especially after all we have been through in recent years. If we had our say we might choose differently. God called prophets like Amos in the first reading to preach his word. Now God calls some to be priests to minister in his name to our spiritual needs, whom he has marked out for this ministry in the Sacrament of Holy Orders just as we are all marked for God in the Sacrament of Baptism.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2012

This homily was delivered when I was on vacation in Ireland after joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Fifteenth Sunday Year B

Chosen to be holy and spotless in Christ

Related Homilies: Jesus could work no miracle because they rejected him

Second Reading: Chosen by God