All the life and grace in the Church comes from Christ

Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

People like to trace back to the origin of things. Scientists are trying to trace the origins of the universe. People like to trace their family tree, to chart their ancestors and roots. We can trace all the life and grace we receive in the Church back to Christ. All the life in the Church, all the grace of the seven sacraments that we receive in the Church comes from Christ.

  • Jesus said unless we are born again through water and the Spirit we cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5), and so we baptize.

  • Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and the bishop prays during Confirmation that we receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

  • Jesus broke and shared bread during the Last Supper and said, “This is my Body…Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19) and so we worship together at the Eucharist and receive the Body of the Lord in Holy Communion.

  • Jesus forgave sins and gave the authority to the apostles to forgive sins. He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Those whose sins you forgive are forgiven and those whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:22-23) and so we come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to have our sins forgiven.

  • Jesus healed many sick people and today those who are ill ask the Lord for strength and healing when the priest anoints them in the Sacrament of the Sick.

  • Jesus blessed the wedding at Cana by his presence and the Church today unites couples in the Sacrament of Marriage.

  • Jesus ordained the apostles as the first priests during the Last Supper, as we see in John 17:17-19 where Jesus prays that they be consecrated, and today bishops continue to ordain men to the priesthood.

Indeed all the life in the Church, all the grace of the seven sacraments that we receive in the Church comes from Christ. The ministry of the Church is a continuation of the ministry of Christ.

In many other ways we also see the life of the Church coming to us from Jesus. Jesus made Peter the first Pope saying, “…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…” (Matt 16:18) Jesus gathered the apostles around him so that they would see him and listen and learn from him. They spent three years learning from Jesus to become the first priests. Today the Church has special colleges called seminaries to prepare men to become priests just as Jesus taught his apostles and we could say that the time the apostles spent learning from Jesus was the first seminary. Then Jesus ordained the apostles as the first bishops during the Last Supper and our bishops today are the successors of the apostles. In so many ways we see that all the life in the Church, all the grace we receive in the Church, comes from Christ. The ministry of the Church is a continuation of the ministry of Christ.

The Gospel today concentrates on Jesus sending out the seventy(-two). He sent them on a mission. They were to preach in all the places where Jesus would later go. Not long before this in Luke (Luke 9:1-10) we read that Jesus had also sent out the Twelve Apostles on a mission to preach just like these seventy(-two). When the seventy(-two) came back they were rejoicing because demons submitted to them and when Jesus had sent out the Twelve he also gave them power over demons. So we see Jesus sending the seventy(-two) on a mission very similar to the mission he gave to the twelve apostles a short while previously. We see the seventy(-two) sharing in the mission Jesus gave to the Twelve Apostles. Who are these seventy(-two)? Pope John Paul II saw the seventy(-two) as anticipating the priests of the Catholic Church. Priests are the assistants of the bishops and like bishops priests are also ordained in the Sacrament of Holy Orders though of course they do not receive the fullness of the sacrament like bishops. Pope John Paul II saw the seventy(-two) sharing in the mission of the Twelve Apostles, pointing forward to the priests of the Catholic Church because priests are assistants to the bishops. Pope John Paul II was not the first to point out that these seventy(-two) were anticipating the priests of the Catholic Church because in the early centuries the Church also viewed the seventy-two in this way but it was good that Pope John Paul II reminded us of this once again (Wednesday audience, March 31, 1993 §4). All the life in the Church, all the grace we receive in the Church comes from Christ. The ministry of the Church is a continuation of the ministry of Christ.

The first reading today from the prophet Isaiah (Isa 66:10-14) could really be seen as a prophecy of all the life and grace we receive in the Church. The prophet Isaiah spoke of peace and rejoicing in Jerusalem but although there were times of peace and rejoicing in Jerusalem they did not last. For most of the centuries between Isaiah and Christ Jerusalem was under the control of foreign nations; for example that is why we see Roman soldiers in the Gospels. Whenever we see these wonderful predictions in the prophets about blessings in the future very often they make most sense if see these blessings referring to the life and grace we receive in the Church. All this grace and life comes to us through Jesus’ death on Calvary. The water and blood flowing from the side of Christ on Calvary (John 19:34) symbolize the life and grace we receive in the Church (See Catechism of the Catholic Church §1225). Therefore it makes perfect sense when Paul wrote to the Galatians (Gal 6:14) as we heard in the second reading today, that the only thing he boasts about is the cross of Jesus.

All the life, all the grace we receive in the Church really comes from Christ on Calvary. The Church is continuing the ministry of Christ. The seventy(-two) sent out by Jesus on mission were anticipating the priests of the Catholic Church. The future blessings which the prophets often predict are the life and grace we receive in the Church from Christ.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was on vacation in Ireland after joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Fourteenth Sunday Year C

The Peace of Jesus