Homily for 5th Sunday of Easter -Year A

The Chosen Race, With Priestly-Royal Heritage, And A Heavenly Abode
Readings: 1st: Acts 6: 1-7; Ps 32: 1-2. 4-5. 18-19; 2nd: 1Pt 2: 4-9; Gos Jh 14: 1-12).

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

On this 5th Sunday of Easter and as we continue to celebrate the triumph of the Risen Lord, the Church reminds us in a special way of who we are and where we ought to be: “The Chosen race and the royal priesthood who reign with Christ and would definitely, if we tarry though, be where Christ is. Therefore, as we gather today for Eucharistic celebration this Sunday, the Holy Mother Church encourages us to exercise our royal priesthood by offering the spiritual sacrifice which Jesus Christ by his own great and superb sacrifice has made acceptable to God the Father.
While reflecting on today’s readings especially the first and the second which remind us of who we truly are, and the exalted position we occupy as a result of Christ’s great sacrifice, I recalled a story told about a “Sheepish Lion.” The cub of a Lion lost track of its mother in the jungle but eventually found a flock of sheep looking for greener pastures and joined them. The cub remained with the flock until it grew into a full Lion. However, it did not realize it was a lion because it grew up among a sheepfold. The sheepish lion thus behaved like a sheep, ate grasses, was as weak as a sheep, was timid and worst of all, could not roar like a lion instead, it cried and bleated like a sheep. One day, as another lion was moving around in the forest, it came across this sheep flock and thought to himself, “Today, God has buttered my bread!” But at a close look, he discovered a fellow lion in the midst of the flock. The marauding lion wondered what a fellow lion was doing in sheep’s fold. So it moved closer, targeted and caught the sheepish lion while the rest of the sheep ran for their lives. He inquired from the sheepish lion what he was doing among sheep. But the sheepish lion responsed that he was there because he is a sheep. Then, the Marauding lion said to him, “no, you are a lion and not a sheep.” While the argument lasted, he took him to a nearby river where he asked him to look and see his true self through his reflection on the water. So, seeing that he was a lion, from that day the sheepish lion ceased to follow the sheep and assumed his exalted position as a royal caste and king of the Jungle.
In the first reading of today from Acts 6, 1-7, the drama that unfolded and led to the election of seven deacons in order to cater for the social needs of the believers has the following lessons to teach us. The first being that we must not neglect or take for granted the social and material needs of our flock, brothers and sisters. Second, neglect of complains in a group without finding quick and lasting solutions to them can wreck havoc for our ministry. If we neglect such complains they will distract us when they are fully blown. So it is important we act fast before they undermine the work of God. Third, we must make sure we find means of balancing both the spiritual and material needs of our flock and brethren. The fourth is that, as members of the royal priesthood, we must not forget who we are or neglect our primary calling just as the sheepish lion did. We must not allow the care of the mundane to distract us from our major duties as the Apostles took precaution: “It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food…we will hand over this duty and devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word of God.” If we pay too much attention to material needs, the spiritual will certainly suffer. We cannot do everything by ourselves as members of the royal priesthood. We must draw a line between what we can combine with our priestly ministry and what we cannot combine with it. Finally, we must be wise and prayerful in selecting those who help us in any kind of work in our ministry so that they themselves do not constitute obstacles to us in the exercise of our priestly ministry. They must be “men (or women) of good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom.” When we neglect the spiritual (core) aspect of our calling in order to attend to the mundane alone, we reduce ourselves to mere social workers or NCOs. While this is not bad in itself, the problem is that we might become trapped by materialism, and forget that: “Man must not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt 4: 4).
In the second reading from 2Pt 2, 4-9, Peter reminds us of who we truly are: “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises if God…” Here, Peter highlights our participation in the priesthood of Christ through the “common or general priesthood” of all believers by virtue of our baptism (CCC 1268, p.291). Yes, baptism configures us to become “priests.” That is why each and every one of us can bless one another, bless some articles, pray for one another, and even baptize someone who is in danger of death (CCC 1284, p. 293). By virtue of our anointing with the oil of chrism during baptism, we are equally consecrated to God and thus set apart. Furthermore, the sacrament of confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace and thus through it leaves on the believer an indelible character by the power of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1285, p.293). Thus, in this pastoral letter, Peter highlights the efficacy of the “Sacraments of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation) on us as believers. Through this Peter therefore reminds us of our priestly and royal heritage. He equally calls us to live it out in a manner that is proper. In order words, if we set ourselves close to Christ our chief priest, we must live up to expectation by offering acceptable sacrifices to God. By and through this, we become acceptable to God and become ourselves spiritual houses.
In today’s gospel, Jesus assures us “his fellow priests,” of a place in his kingdom: “Let not your hearts be troubled…there are many rooms in my father’s house…so that where I am you may be too.” This is a clear indication that by virtue of baptism we are truly children of God and share in the priesthood and royalty of Jesus Christ. This is why he considers us worthy of being where he is going to be. Unfortunately, many of us like the sheepish lion in our story above do not know who we are, or even believe that there is a beautiful place being prepared for us by Christ in his Father’s house. So, we act just like the “doubtful Thomas” and the “ignorant Philip.” It is because we doubt this truth told by Jesus, or because, we are ignorant of it that we live our lives anyhow and so forget who we are. This is also the reason many of us cannot maximize our priestly and royal potentials. As priests and people of royal decent and blood, we must assert ourselves positively. It takes faith to log ourselves fully into this position and to live it. Jesus tells us: “I am the way the truth and the light (via, veritas, lucis)! Therefore, if we follow him and fashion our priesthood and priestly life after his, we shall do well, as well as be where he is. Let us therefore ask God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to help us live as members of the royal and heavenly dynasty where Christ our high priest reigns and has set up rooms for us his “fellow priests.” My dear friends and brethren, with this great awareness on this glorious and gracious season of Easter, let us: “Rejoice in the Lord,” we who have been justified and counted worthy of being Christ’s fellow priests, who himself has assured us of a place in heaven, because, “praise is fitting for loyal (and royal) hearts.”Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Peace be with you all!!
Maranatha!!!

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