Immersed in Christ: July 24, 2020
Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
The Responsorial Verse promises that God will keep seeking out his lost sheep: “The Lord will guard us like a shepherd guarding his flock” (Jeremiah 31; see verses 10-13 and Luke 15:4).
Jeremiah 3: 14-17 describes God restoring happiness to those few of his people — “one from a city, two from a clan” — who turn back to him. As a key element in the renewal, God will provide ministers, “shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently.”
“Shepherds” makes us think of ordained ministers, nuns and “lay professionals” who are the working core of pastoral ministry in church institutions. But this is too narrow a focus. We were all consecrated to ministry when we were anointed at Baptism to be “priests, prophets and kings.” The Jewish priesthood is abolished. There is only one Priest now, Jesus, and all who are “in Christ” by Baptism are “priests in the Priest.” The sacrament of Holy Orders does make a difference, but only within the one priesthood of Jesus (see Hebrews, chapters 6-10; 1Peter 2:9; and St. Thomas Aquinas on Hebrews 8:4: “Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers” in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994, no. 1545).
Jesus replaced previews with presence. The Jewish priests were a preview of the priesthood of Jesus. The Ark of the Covenant — of which Jeremiah says, “It shall not… be remembered or missed; nor shall another one be made” — and the Temple which replaced it were both previews of God’s presence in his new Temple, the Body of Christ risen and real in his members on earth (John 2 18-22; 4: 19-24). And when God promises in the chapter used for the Responsorial, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” he is saying that God’s ministry is moving indoors, into the heart.
Fr. John McKenzie explains Jeremiah 31:33-34:
Charismatic leaders such as prophets and priests, who instruct the people in the obligations of the law of Yahweh, will not be necessary in the new covenant. Yahweh will teach each individual Israelite as he taught the prophets and the priests (Dictionary of the Bible, under “covenant”).
Ministers are still necessary, but now all are ministers to each other. Jesus speaks in and through them. And his Spirit speaks to the hearers in their own hearts (Matthew 10:20; 12:32; Acts 10: 44-48; Galatians 3:20). In Christ’s body “The Lord will guard us like a shepherd guarding his flock.”
Initiative: Be a priest. Embody Christ to the body of Christ. Express his life.
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