Wednesday January 12, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier First Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Hebrews 2:14-18) Gospel (St. Mark 1:29-39)
In the first reading today, Saint Paul, speaking of Our Lord, says that because we have flesh and blood He also had to have a share in flesh and blood, and the reason that was the case was because He had come in part to destroy the one who had the power of death (that, of course, is the devil) and thereby to free us from the slavery that we had to Satan because of the fear of death. Now the question is, what exactly does that mean? Well, what it means is that unless He had taken human flesh to Himself we would not be saved, but it also implies something even more than that: He not only had a human body and human blood, but He also had to have a human soul because whatever He did not have has not been saved in us. And so it means that if His body was not a real human body then our bodies cannot be saved; they cannot rise from the dead on the day of resurrection. If He did not have a real human soul, then our souls would not be saved. He had to have both a body and a soul.
It also became critically important for the manner in which our souls and our bodies (our whole person) are going to be saved, and that is through His sacrifice on the Cross. Saint Paul tells us that it was through doing this that He became our merciful High Priest, because, having a body and a soul, He then had something He could offer in sacrifice to His heavenly Father. And because it was human sin for which He came into the world, He had to become human and He had to offer human flesh in sacrifice for human sin. The blood of bulls and goats and other animals can cover up sin; it cannot remove it. It had to be human flesh and human blood that He was going to offer in sacrifice to His heavenly Father.
If we think about this from another perspective, that is, our own perspective, each one of us shares in the priesthood of Christ, He being our High Priest; and, through the Resurrection, He has His body with Him in heaven and He continues to offer His suffering (that is, His past suffering) to His heavenly Father, showing His heavenly Father the wounds He endured for us so that we could be saved and our sins could be forgiven; so since each one of us is baptized into Christ and we therefore have a share in the priesthood of Christ, we then can understand why Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, says, Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice to God your spiritual worship. In other words, to worship God in the fullness of a spiritual way implies also the sacrifice of our bodies. Now that does not necessarily imply that our bodies have to be killed, but rather that what we are doing is offering our whole self to God, that we are willing to take up our share of the Cross, that we are willing to suffer, that we are willing to offer up our sacrifices, our pains, our struggles, our difficulties, as well as the penances we are willing to take on. We are willing to offer all of that to God as an act of priesthood.
Remember, that is what we are to do at Mass, to bring all of those things with us and put them on the paten, put them in the chalice, unite them with the sacrifice of Christ, because the only way the suffering of Christ continues now in our world is through the Mystical Body. That means if the fullness of the priesthood of Christ is going to continue, and it is His body and His blood (as well as His soul and divinity) that are sacrificed at Mass, the question is, physically, where does that take place? In your body, in your blood, in your soul. Because you share in the divinity of Christ, you have the opportunity and the ability to do this. That is what we are being asked to do. He is our High Priest, but each one of us shares in the baptismal priesthood. It is His sacrifice – and His alone – that destroys Satan and robs the devil, the Prince of Death, of all his power. He has destroyed death and therefore there is no fear of death in one who is living a truly Christian life.
But if we are going to live the fullness of the Christian life, it is to become like Him in every way. What we heard from Saint Paul yesterday is that it was fitting in bringing many sons to glory that God should make the leader of that work perfect through suffering. What about the rest? If that is the way the leader is going to be, how about all of His followers? It is going to be the same way. We have to be united with Him. As Saint Paul tells us today, He had to become like His brothers and sisters in every way in order to be that faithful and merciful High Priest. That means also that we have to become like Him in every way. So, sharing in His divinity, sharing in His priesthood, sharing in every element of Who He is, we also must share in the suffering, in the sacrifice, so that we can share in the glory.
That is what we are being asked to do, to exercise our priesthood. It is precisely through this means that with Our Lord and with our Blessed Lady we crush the head of the serpent, that we take our part in robbing the devil of all the power that he thinks he has over us, because in Christ he has no power over us. As long as we are willing to unite ourselves with Jesus, we have nothing to fear from that vile creature. That is the glory that is being offered to us right now. The glory of Jesus Christ on earth was the Cross, the Crucifixion. The glory of Christ in heaven is to be seated at the right hand of His heavenly Father. If we want the glory of heaven, we need to share in His glory on earth – and that is to suffer with Him, to be crucified with Him, so as also to be glorified with Him.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.