Homily for May 22, V Sunday of Easter, cycle A
Today’s Gospel reading, or at least a large part of it, has been part of the readings at Mass two times already in the past couple of weeks. Maybe God is trying to get a point across, and today being the third time, I am finally going to get it right in my homily. This is also the second time in about as many weeks that we read the same first reading – but this is the first time we get these readings together on the same day. Let’s see if I can discover the sense of this combination.
In the second reading, St Peter tells us that here on earth we are being “built into a spiritual house”, much like St Paul elsewhere speaks of us forming part of the Body of Christ. As Christ is the Head of His Mystical Body, so He is also the living Cornerstone on which the spiritual house is built. And it is not just any kind of house: we are built into “a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”, a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation”. This is usually summed up by saying that, in Baptism, we come to participate in Jesus as “priest, prophet and king.”
Yet, we do not all participate in these roles in the same way. In our spiritual house there are many rooms. There are many different roles in the Church. We see three of them in the first reading today. First, we hear about the “disciples”, which includes pretty much all of the members of the early Church, but here more specifically refers to the lay people, who always, today as then, form the largest portion of the Church. All baptized Christians have a participation in Christ’s priesthood, in that we can offer prayers and sacrifices to God. We do so particularly by bringing all our prayers, intentions, and work for others, to God in the Liturgy. Among the lay faithful there are many roles in living and passing on the faith, as parents, catechists, lectors, altar servers, and so forth.
Then there are the Apostles, to whom Christ gave a full participation in His priesthood, at the service of the whole Church. Their successors today are the bishops. As we heard in the reading, the Apostles soon realized they couldn’t do everything needed to serve the community all by themselves, so they ordained the first deacons, who have a special role of service in the community and in the liturgy. Although not mentioned in the reading there are also priests, who participate in Christ’s priesthood in a more restricted way than the bishops. They can administer some sacraments only with the bishop’s permission, and they cannot ordain other priests or deacons – but they usually are the bishops’ “hands and feet” in serving the people of the diocese.
The important thing is that each one of us discovers and accepts the role that God wants us to play in the Church, which room of the spiritual house we are to occupy. That requires prayer and generosity on our part to discover how God wants us to put our talents to use at the service of each other and of the world. Carrying out our specific vocation faithfully, we are living members of the body of Christ. Through our union with Him, Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we come to perform the works of God as He did, and arrive at the Father’s house, where Jesus has gone before us to prepare many dwelling places, so that where He is, we may be also.