Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), November 4, 2018:
Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Psalm18; Hebrews 7:23-28; and Mark 12:28-34.
By Father Scott Karnik
When you concentrate on today’s readings you’ll find two parallels between Moses and Jesus. One is that they are both priests. The second is that they both teach.
Moses comes from a priestly family. His father was a Levitical priest. And Moses teaches the Israelites. Listen to Moses’s words: “Fear the Lord, your God, and keep…all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you”(Deut 6:2); and, “Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe then, that you may grow and prosper the more”…(Deut 6:3). Then Moses teaches the Israelites the greatest commandment: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength”(Deut 6:5). Moses teaches this to motivate the Israelites to obey the Ten Commandments and to remind them that the Lord’s liberation of them from Egypt has forged a bond between them and God that must never be broken. Moses teaches this to the Israelites before they enter the Promised Land that God will give them. Obedience will lead to the fulfillment of God’s promises of a fruitful land and many children. This is a side note but an important one: in Jeremiah 2:8, God, through Jeremiah, criticizes the priests for not teaching the law well. Teaching is a critical function of a faithful priest.
It is important to indicate that Jesus is not a priest. He is from the tribe of Judah. St. Joseph, Jesus’s foster father, is the last in the physical bloodline of King David. Jesus is a king. Jesus Christ is God’s Son. But the author of Hebrews establishes Jesus’s priesthood. The key words are in verse 28: “Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever”(Heb 7:28). Those words establish Jesus’s priesthood as superior to Moses’s and Aaron’s. And Jesus teaches a superior law too. Jesus teaches that the first of all the commandments is a combination of two, loving the Lord, your God, with all your heart and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:29-31). The scribe asked this question sincerely. He approves Jesus’s answer by saying “You are right, Teacher”(Mark 12:32). Jesus, as a priest, teaches the doctrine of the One who sent Him, His Father.
That brings us to today and the start of National Vocations Awareness Week. This is Jesus’s Church. This Church functions the roles of priests. They are all through our history. We need more of them, to teach. A priest teaches the way of God truthfully. A priest teaches Jesus Christ. A priest teaches a body of revealed truth taught by God and His Son, Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest. A priest teaches to assimilate this body of revealed truth into the hearts, minds, and souls of his flock. As Christianity and this beautiful Catholic Church grow, the need for priests to teach grows. We need more priests and more teachers.
So what must we know? That one of the critical functions of a priest is to teach God’s law, and the doctrine of Jesus Christ and His Church. What must we do? Pray hard for more priests. The dearth of priests is leading to the flock listening to the sinful world and unsound doctrine and it shows. Pray for priests to be faithful and repentant, and committed to teaching. Pray that men who hear God’s call to priesthood will say “Here I am. Send me.” By the way, there is good news. One of our seminarians is scheduled to be ordained to the diaconate next month and to the priesthood, about a year later. Why should we care? Because Jesus still sees a future for this Roman Catholic Church of ours. And to enable the fulfillment of God’s promises, we must be taught by priests to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, and all our souls, and with all our strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. Doing so builds up the House of the Lord. I will leave you with a portion of a prayer for vocations: “Multiply your people and increase their joy, so that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up. This is your house, O Lord God, this is your house. Let there not be in it, I beg you, even one stone which your most holy hand has not placed there. Preserve in your name those whom you have called and make them truly holy. Amen.”
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