In this Sunday’s second reading from St. Peter we find a description of what is referred to as the “priesthood of all the baptized.” We are accustomed to hearing St. Paul speak of the baptized as “temples of the Holy Spirit” and that this temple is “holy” but what is it for? Temples are not only beautiful buildings to behold, but are also made for worship, offerings and sacred actions. Thus, when Jesus came to the Temple and found it full of thieves, he became righteously angry and drove out the moneychangers, challenging the Jewish priests to return the Father’s house to one of prayer.
Like the great Jerusalem Temple, our living temples are not only beautiful, but are made for worship, offerings and sacred actions. In this truth lies the mystery of our call to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own.” We have the privilege of being the priest of our individual temples who select from the limitless possibilities of our heart how we worship God, offer sacrifices and perform sacred actions. In our daily life there are countless occasions where we can say to God, “I offer you this suffering for the glory of your name and for the beauty of who you are.” We may have an opportunity to forgive, to listen attentively, to be honest or courageous. All of these are “acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
There is a further distinction among those who serve God in this royal priesthood and we see this beginning to be revealed in the selection from Acts. In this passage, the church sees the seed of what we now know as the diaconate or deacons. The role is revealed to be one of service so that the apostles could devote themselves more fully to the activity of prayer. This demands great personal sacrifice on behalf of deacons so that others may be freed more fully for things of the Spirit. In the reading, these men are chosen through prayer and are set aside for the ministry through the ancient action of the “laying on of hands.” We later read in Acts of these men baptizing and preaching the Gospel. This role of the deacon has continued to this day. In the passage they were chosen because of the need to look after marginalized widows. Deacons continue this role of reaching out to the neglected, from the unborn to the oppressed.
All these actions serve to reveal Christ to the world, and to reveal Christ is to reveal the Father. Jesus told Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” All of Jesus’ actions reveal the glory and the love of the Father. The Christian in turn, through a union with Christ, now serves this role in the world. God seeks such conduits of himself. For those who allow themselves to be used for the worship and revelation of God, Christ promises a place with him forever, a place in the Father’s house where all worship finds its final end and fulfillment.
Questions for reflection
1. What in my day could I offer to God?
2. Who are the neglected today?
3. Have people experienced the Father’s love through me?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.