4th Sunday of Easter: May 3, 2020
I always begin my Sunday homily with a story either real or fiction because I believe that a homily without a story is like a delicious menu without appetizer. A priest and a taxi driver both died and went to heaven. St. Peter was at the Pearly gates waiting for them. 'Come with me,' said St. Peter to the taxi driver. The taxi driver did as he was told and followed St Peter to a mansion. It had everything you could imagine from a bowling alley to an Olympic size pool. 'Oh my word, thank you,' said the taxi driver. Next, St. Peter led the priest to a rough old shack with a bunk bed and a little old television set. 'Wait, I think you are a little mixed up,' said the priest. 'Shouldn't I be the one who gets the mansion? After all I was a priest, went to church every day, and preached God's word.'' Yes, that's true.' St Peter rejoined, ' But during your sermons people slept. When the taxi driver drove, everyone prayed.
Fourth Sunday of Easter is also known as the Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd is best described by His prophetic, priestly and kingly threefold office. All baptized share in this mission of Christ but let me focus my reflection to priests because we are called “ALTER CHRISTUS” by virtue of priestly ordination. The priest is being sent as a prophet to the people of God. Peter, who is the head of the apostles, was described by the Acts of the Apostles as standing courageously and preaching diligently the life of Jesus before critical people in a very simple way. “Jesus Christ whom you crucified was made by God as Lord and Saviour”. He is plainly proclaiming the story of Christ but it is powerful because there is a profound connection between the message and the messenger that it elicited tremendous response of conversion. Peter is an icon of perfect preaching. He is indeed a kerygmatic preacher. The priests are not only called to deliver eloquent message about the life of Jesus but we are called first of all to ‘Believe what we read. Teach what we believe. Practise what we teach.’ Honestly, in my life as a priest, I am investing more time to this office. Early by Monday, I am accustomed to scan the following Sunday readings. Spend moments of silence and ask the Lord to inspire me to live the gospel so that the story in the bible be my own story. Witnessing to the life of Jesus is definitely essential because it penetrates the hearts of listeners until they decide to accept Jesus in their life.
The priest is being called intercessor between God and people. The First Letter of Peter tells us about the ultimate sacrifice Jesus did, “He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross”. In ancient times, priests offer sacrifices to God from the people but during the time of Jesus, He Himself was the sacrifice. His life became a sublime payment for the sins of humanity. Likewise, an ordained minister is not only called dispenser of sacraments. He does not only go from man to God and offer Him their prayers but his life must be a reflection of the very life of Jesus. This is the fundamental reason why priest practices obedience to our Bishop; only live by what the parish provides and is celibate. These vows express his intimacy with Christ which means he does not only intercede but his lifestyle becomes a sacrifice from the faithful to God.
Priest exercises his kingly office by leading the people to the home of the Father. The gospel made mention the role of the Good Shepherd. “He calls them by name; they follow him because they know His voice”. Nowadays, a priest should manifest a radical and reinvented kingly office by striking the balance between power and ability. Power is not meant to manipulate but to set an example before the believers. Ability is openness to listen to the people. He should not always give marching command but be at the forefront of the battlefield. He needs to listen to people because the voice of the people is the voice of God. It is only when power is transformed to lead and voice of the people is recognized and honoured that the people of God can set its journey to the home of the Father.