The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Exodus 19:2-6 + Romans 5:6-11 + Matthew 9:36—10:8
“You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.”
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references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited for this Sunday by the Vatican’s Homiletic Directory:
CCC 551, 761-766: the Church prefigured in Old Testament community
CCC 783-786: the Church a priestly, prophetic, royal people
CCC 849-865: the apostolic mission of the Church
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In our Scripture readings today, we hear two things: first, how much our heavenly Father cares for us; and second, the way in which He shows us that care.
In the First Reading from the Book of Exodus, we hear God promise the Israelites that if they listened to His word and kept their covenant with Him, He would look upon them as His “special possession, dearer to [Him] than all other people ….” His people would “be to [Him] a kingdom of priests.”
This is as true of the Church today, as it was of the Israelites four thousand years ago. The Church—of which you are a member—is “a kingdom of priests.” This is the way in which God wants to show the world His care: through your life, as one member of the Church. God wants to show the world His care through the lives of His priestly people. That’s why it’s important to remember that in the Church, there are two types of priests: there are those who are ordained priests, and then there is the type of priesthood that every baptized Christian belongs to. Ordained priests offer sacrifice at the altar. Those who are priests through their baptism, having been strengthened by the Eucharistic sacrifice, offer their sacrifices in the world.
Saint Paul in the Second Reading reminds us of the source of both types of Christian priesthood. Christ Jesus, our High Priest, made the ultimate sacrifice for us on the Cross. St. Paul reminds us how much the Lord cares for us: that while it’s only with difficulty that someone dies for a just person, God proves His love for us in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Christ is our High Priest. He is not like the priests of the Old Testament who offered goats and bulls as sacrifices. Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice, as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” In imitation of our Lord, every baptized Christian offers spiritual sacrifices, which are sacrifices of the self.
To find inspiration for her works of sacrifice, the Church looks first to the example that Jesus Christ gave us on the Cross. This is Jesus’ definitive sacrifice. Yet in fact, the entire life of our Lord reveals to us—in example after example—the care He has for us. In the Gospel Reading, we hear that Jesus was not willing to let any need go untended. Jesus couldn’t stand to see the unclean spirits, the sicknesses and diseases of every kind. So He gave the twelve apostles a share in His own power.
In our turn, each one of us is sent forth from Mass in order to care for the needs of others. We have been commanded to undertake the corporal works of mercy: to go and feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, to visit the sick and imprisoned, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, and to bury the dead.
Parents have the opportunity to carry out all of these in the home. Likewise, all of us have many opportunities to exercise the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in our neighborhoods. Whether it’s something we organize ourselves, or whether we “plug into” apostolates like The Lord’s Diner, or the Guadalupe Clinic, all of them are sacrifices of our time and talent by which we can grow in faith.
When we care for others with the grace that comes from God, we recognize that we are small. We exist and live in this world only to serve others, by seeing the Image of God in them. The gift that we have received, we are to give as a gift. That gift is our Lord, Jesus Christ.