Summary: We are made prophets by our baptism; shall we act as prophets to this culture of death?
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 8, 2012
Beloved of God, listen to the words that a priest or deacon spoke to you at your baptism: [God] now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as members of his body, sharing everlasting life.
Chrism, the special oil poured on your forehead at baptism and confirmation, is derived from the same Greek word as Christ. It refers to anointing with oil, an anointing that was used for prophets, priests and the Israelite kings. It was a symbol of office that said to everyone that this is a special minister of God, set aside for the service of God and His people. Christ received that anointing. He spoke the word of God to His people, even though they didn’t want to hear it: “love God, love your neighbor, even love your enemies.” He told us how to live together in a family, by unselfish, giving charity. For the most part, the Jews of His day did not listen, and did not obey, but they certainly knew they had a prophet in their midst.
Christ received the anointing of priest. Psalm 110 says of Jesus: “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedek.” Christ was High Priest of the New Covenant, the covenant not in the blood of sheep or cattle, but in His own precious Blood. When the High Priest of the Old Covenant entered the Holy of Holies, one time each year on Yom Kippur, he prayed first for himself, then for his disciples, and then for all those who believe. In the seventeenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, we see Jesus doing the same, for Himself, His disciples, and the rest of us. The beauty of our Catholic worship is that Christ continues that prayer, yes, in heaven, but especially on earth when we celebrate the Holy Mass. The priest, in the person of Christ the head, prays, and Christ become present as the sacrificial offering under the form of bread and wine.
Christ received the anointing of king, leader of His people and of the whole Church. We know this because this was the official indictment against Him, nailed to the cross above His head. The Jews rejected Him, saying, we have no king but Caesar, which was a horrible betrayal of their identity and their covenant, because God was their king. But the Resurrection of Jesus to eternal life, a resurrection in a glorified and real corporeal body, proved them wrong, and gave us an eternal King.
All that is very fine and good, but what’s the rest of the story?
As Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so we also are anointed priest, prophet, leader by baptism and confirmation. And this anointing is strengthened each time we come to the altar and express our faith in the body and blood of Christ we receive. I am prophet, priest and leader. Each of you is prophet, priest and leader. To the extent we make that grace operative in our lives, to that extent Jesus Christ becomes anew the prophet, priest and king for our generation.
Now that’s a little scary, because to be a prophet, in particular, is to risk rejection. After all, Jesus was rejected by his own kin, his own townspeople. It’s a lot easier to keep our mouths shut. And we’ve just completed fifty years of a nationwide experiment in keeping our mouths shut, of quenching the gift of prophecy. We have been given a great gift by the Holy Spirit, in the teachings of the Church about marriage, procreation, and the nuanced explanation called the theology of the body. And we have sat on that truth, buried the gift in the ground, put the light under a bushel basket. Instead of raising serious questions about the birth-control Pill when it surfaced a half-century ago, we let heretical teachers seize the high ground and left Pope Paul dangling alone in the wind on the publication of Humanae Vitae. How many times in the last five decades have you heard a homily or sermon on the joys of exemplary size families, of marital fidelity, of witnessing familial love to a culture hungry for love? And yet, these are all truths, precious realities of our Catholic faith that enlivened our Church in the first half of the last century.
This year we got the vicious payback for fifty years of silence, fifty years of “going along to get along.” The Department of Health and Human Services essentially told us, “you don’t pay any attention to the prophetic voice of the Church telling you that contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs are sinful, so now you’re going to have to go along with paying every dollar of their cost.” Moreover, now the Supreme Court has essentially agreed with them, by allowing the nationalization of health insurance to pass constitutional muster.