Jesus Continues his Ministry through the Church

Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday of Year B

by Fr. Tommy Lane

If Jesus walked among us today and performed miracles and taught us, how would we treat him? Would we have the faith to allow him perform miracles of healing among us? Would we have the faith to allow him teach us? Would we treat him with the faith and respect he would deserve or would we treat him with the skepticism and contempt which the people of Nazareth showed him as we heard in the Gospel today? (Mark 6:1-6) At first we might say what a dreadful question to ask, of course we would have faith in Jesus to allow him work miracles and preach. Jesus does continue his ministry among us today, does walk among us today to heal and teach but yet there are many who are lacking faith in Jesus to allow him continue to perform miracles through his Church and teach us through his Church. 

In the first reading (Ezek 2:2-5) we heard that God called the prophet Ezekiel and sent him to prophesy to the rebellious Israelites. Even though God knew their response would be rebellion and revolt God still sent Ezekiel; God said, “whether they heed or resist…they shall know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezek 2:5) God would ensure that his word would be preached regardless of the response. The response of God’s chosen people would not determine whether or not God would send his servants the prophets. While the prophets came to an end during the Old Covenant we could say that Jesus is the Prophet of the New Covenant. (Deut 18:15)

Jesus was also a priest, though not a Jewish priest like the Jewish priests of the Old Covenant. The Jewish priests of the Old Covenant were in the tribe of Levi but Jesus was of the tribe of Judah (Heb 7:14) and could not be a Jewish priest. A priest offers a sacrifice; that is the role of a priest. The Jewish priests of the Old Covenant offered animals in sacrifice but Jesus offered his body in sacrifice on the cross. Therefore one book of the New Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews, describes Jesus as our high priest of the New Covenant (Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:5,10; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1; 9:11). So the prophets and the Jewish priests of the Old Covenant are fulfilled in Jesus in a way no one could ever have imagined.

Jesus’ own ministry is continued in the Church. During the Last Supper Jesus ordained his apostles as the first priests of the New Covenant – a close reading of John’s Gospel has a number of hints of this - and Catholic bishops are the successors of the apostles. During the Last Supper Jesus instituted the Eucharist so Jesus continues to be with us in every tabernacle. On Easter Sunday evening Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on the apostles and gave them the authority to forgive or retain sins. Before Jesus ascended to heaven he commanded the apostles to go out to the whole world baptizing and preaching. In so many ways the ministry of the Church is the continuation of the ministry of Jesus. Through his bishops, priests, and deacons, Jesus continues his ministry today. Jesus does walk among us today and teach today, through the Church. If we do not love the Church we do not love Jesus. To use the language of St. Paul, Jesus is the head and the Church is his body (Eph 1:22-23; 4:15-16; 5:23; Col 1:18). The letter to the Ephesians reminds us that the love of a husband and wife is a mirror of the love of Christ for the Church (Eph 5:25-32). If we think we love God but do not love the Church we are mistaken. If we really love God we would also love the Church. If we love Jesus we will want to meet Jesus every Sunday in the Eucharist. If we love Jesus we will want to be at Calvary during Sunday Mass when we are transported, as if in a time warp, to the one sacrifice of Jesus.

Just as God called Ezekiel and told him the rebellious Israelites would not listen to his message but yet he should preach, and just as Jesus experienced rejection and prepared the apostles to expect rejection, so also today the Church experiences misunderstanding but continues to preach and teach and minister in the name of Jesus because the Church is called to continue the ministry of Jesus, welcome or unwelcome. Of course it would be easy to point out all the imperfections in the Church. We heard in the Gospel people could not accept Jesus because they knew, as they thought, all about his human origins, “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary…?” (Mark 6:3) They named his brothers and sisters. Of course these are Jesus’ cousins, not his blood brothers and sisters. It was the Semitic custom at that time to call everyone in the extended family one’s brothers and sisters. We have always believed that Mary was ever Virgin. Even during the Reformation Luther, Calvin and Zwingli believed that Mary was ever Virgin. It was only with the rise of fundamentalism in recent years that people have misinterpreted this line of Scripture just like the people of Nazareth misunderstood Jesus and thought he was of human origin. In the same way there are many now, just like in Nazareth, who only see what is human in the Church and do not have eyes to see that the Church is also divine just as Jesus was both human and divine, and that the Church continues the ministry of Jesus. We are well aware of the rejection of the Church’s moral teaching by many. We hear things like the preacher should stay out of the bedroom but for anyone married in the Catholic Church what happens in the bedroom is sacramental and holy, yes - sacramental and holy. If people realized this then hopefully they might understand that the Church’s teaching and preaching is to help couples realize the full holiness of their sacramental marriages.

The ministry of the Old Covenant prophets and Jewish priests was fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus’ own ministry is continued in the Church. So I return once again to my question at the beginning. If Jesus walked among us today and performed miracles and taught us how would we treat him? Would we have the faith to allow him perform miracles of healing among us? Would we have the faith to allow him teach us?

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2009

This homily was delivered in a parish in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

More homilies for the Fifteenth Sunday Year A

Jesus could work no miracle because they rejected him

Related Homilies: Second Reading Carrying Our Cross after Jesus 

Gospel: Commentary The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus