We know from St. Ignatius of Antioch* and other early Christian writers that, by the beginning of the second century, the Church had a well defined hierarchy of bishops, priests and deacons. The priests (presbuteroi) assumed functions once performed by Jewish priests, for example, the offering of sacrifices.
With the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the temple sacrifices ended, but Christian priests were only beginning to offer the one sacrifice of Christ. (cf. Heb 10:10) They would fulfill the Old Testament prophecy: a "pure offering" to God "from the rising of the sun to its setting." (Mal 1:11)
Today's Gospel gives us another glimpse of the Jewish priesthood being transformed by Christ. After healing a leper, Jesus tells him, "go, show yourself to the priest." (Mk 1:44) In the original context, Jesus' command stated the requirement (as we saw in the first reading) for re-integration into the community of Israel. However, the Church Fathers saw a deeper application. Jesus alone can heal the leprosy of sin, but full integration requires the ministry of priests.
When someone approaches me for Reconciliation, I assume Christ has already been at work. Like a realtor, I only have to "close the sale." It does not take much - a word of encouragement, a penance and absolution. Jesus does the hard part. And to bring the healing to its conclusion, he uses me and other priests.
While down in Peru, I spent some time with a man who was badly burned.** His face was horribly distorted and he has deep scars on his neck, back and chest. In talking with him, I realized he also carried some deep inner scars. We prayed together as tears flowed from his eyes. I blessed him with holy water and anointed him, paying particular attention to his right hand. He hopes to regain enough flexibility so he can do manual labor to support his three children.
While you and I may not suffer from grave external scars, we have some which only Jesus can see. Like the leper, we look to Jesus for healing - and we are grateful for the ministry of his priests.
*E.g.: "Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest" (Letter to the Magnesians 6:1[A.D. 110]).
Bulletin (Animal Rights & Human Rights; Reflection on Cloning, 30th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade)
Financial Report (July 1 - December 31, 2002)
From the Archives:
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Pictures from Peru (Portrait of my mom, third anniversary Mass - January 27, 2003)
Pictures from Wedding of Lucho & Luz (January 31, 2003; Puno, Peru)
Can you help this man? **Peruvian Burn Victim, Fidel Quezada Borda:
Pictures from Peru
(Major Robert D. Lindenau Tutoring Program)
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