Christ our priest, prophet, and King leading us to holiness.
Peace be with you. One of the things that marks a person who receives a sacrament is taking on the three munera or offices of Jesus, namely priest, prophet, and king. For example, after the actual baptism, the person conferring the sacrament takes sacred chrism and anoints the forehead of the baptized person while saying…
"The God of power and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people.He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life."
These three offices are a part of each sacrament. I’ll talk more about baptism later but let me use marriage as an example. The priestly element of a vocation is when someone acts as an intermediary between the person and God. In this regard, the priestly goal of a husband is to help his wife get to heaven and vice versa and, if they’re blessed with children, the priestly goal of parents is to raise their children in the faith by bringing them to Mass, teaching them to pray, and making sure they regularly celebrate their sacraments. A prophet proclaims God’s teachings and certainly parents are responsible for teaching their children about what is right and wrong but also a husband or a wife may have to instruct a spouse in God’s ways as well. Lastly, marriage shares in the kingly ministry of Jesus by working and providing and maintaining home and other property.
These three offices are especially emphasized in the ordination ritual because priests and bishops exercise them in a more public, unique way. I’ll speak to my experience as a priest. I remember, shortly before I was ordained, a seminary professor telling me that most priests begin thinking that the hardest part would be the priestly or sanctifying parts but would soon learn that actually the kingly part is the hardest. Most people appreciate and understand thinking of their priest as priest and a prophet. A priest stands in the place of Christ our high priest and continues the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ by celebrating the sacraments and especially the Mass. A priest acts as a prophet by challenging the people to turn away from their sinful ways and return to the Lord with their whole heart. In general, I have found that people appreciate the priestly and prophetic role of priesthood and that those who don’t are in error, asking me to follow them down the rabbit hole of heresy.
I will admit that my professor is, in general pretty accurate. The office of priest as King tends to be the one that causes me the most headaches and heartaches. Part of it has to do with understanding what it means. We don’t always have a good impression of the term “King.” As you’re aware, we don’t have royalty in this country because we threw them out at our foundation. And, when we try to compare the King to our president, we notice some pretty striking differences. For instance, a king isn’t chosen by the people like a president is and a King is supposed to avoid divisive party politics in favor of what’s best for his people. Personally, I like the connection with the office of king with the title of pastor or shepherd. As your pastor, it’s my responsibility to lead the sheep. Sometimes the sheep don’t want to go in a certain way and sometimes they resent when I make a decision they don’t agree with, especially when it’s something dealing with money. But it’s my job to always make sure that any given parish is making financial decisions more on the basis of what God wants than any selfish motivation they may have.
You may be wondering what any of this has to do with lepers and, I’ll admit, very little. During my preparation for this homily, I really felt like our hearts were focused on the second reading from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In it, St. Paul was articulating his priestly role in three powerful ways. He begins by stating that whatever we do, we should do it for the glory of God. When we’re watching TV, do we do it for the glory of God? When we go watch a movie, do we do it for the glory of God? When it’s late at night and we’re alone with our computers, are we acting in a way that gives glory to God? God has given us so much glory in creating us in his divine image and giving us his son to be our savior. We should give God glory in all parts of our life. Next, St. Paul says that we should please everyone in every way, not seeking our own benefit but that of the many. Fr. Robert Barron will talk about sin as a spiritual curvature of the spine in which the sinner is always concerned about his own needs and wants. If we put our focus on giving glory to God, it means focusing on the needs of others and trying to reach out to them in love and undoing the curvature of our sinful spiritual spines. Lastly, St. Paul tells us that, if we put our focus on giving glory to God and reaching out to others, we will be an example that will inspire others to holiness. In my opinion, this is the best form of evangelization! If we live our lives giving glory to God and caring for the needs of others, people will see our good deeds and come to faith through them.
We are just a few days away from beginning the Lenten season. In my opinion, lent is about exercising the priestly role of Christ in our daily life. Don’t get me wrong, we are encouraged to grow in the holiness of Christ the high priest and continue to speak out in a prophetic way during Lent. Nonetheless, I feel like we often know what we need to do to grow in holiness but we lack the commitment to actually do it. Lent is our opportunity to put our nose down and get the job done. As we enter into this great season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, let’s put our focus in giving glory to God by reaching out to those in need and being an example of holiness for others.