Though the lessons offered by the Scriptures today might easily be applied to the ordained priesthood, our common baptism calls all to be “priest, prophet, and ruler” in Christ. I would propose that any reflection on these readings include the “priesthood of the baptized” in the spirit of St. Pope Leo the Great who wrote in one of his sermons on the priesthood:
For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by the
sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of
the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our
ministry as priests, all spiritual and mature Christians know
that they are a royal race and are sharers in the office of
So the picture Ezekiel paints of a proclaimer of the Word is not simply a potrait of the ordained, but of every disciple who undertakes the proclamation of the reign of God. Each of the baptized must so live the Gospel that others shall know that a prophet has been among them. And as Ezekiel reminds all of us, there will be forces of opposition at every turn. Even from among our own, we find those who resist the vision of a new creation of peace, justice and equality.
Witness the reluctance to accept the prophetic voice of equality for women in the Church or for the immigrant in our country. Preaching by word or example the Gospel of inclusion often places the proclaimer in the crosshairs of criticism. If we aspire to live out the commission of our baptism as “priest, prophet, and ruler” we will also have to live with those Ezekiel calls the "hard of face and obstinate of heart.”
St. Paul’s confession in his letter to the Corinthians is a profound admission of human frailty that is essential for anyone who would speak with a prophetic voice. The most important fact of all forms of ministry is that we ourselves are powerless. There is no requirement of innocence, but rather the necessity of being what Henri Nouwen called a "wounded healer.”
Both the ministry of the baptized and the ministry of the ordained require people who are broken--human enough to accept the power of Christ working in and through us. On a day of recollection on "The Call to Holiness," the first criteria of sanctity I offer is that a saint must first be a sinner who recognizes that she/he is loved unconditionally. St. Paul understood that, especially in ministry, "power is made perfect through weakness.”
Finally, in the spirit of Ezekiel, Mark makes it clear in the Gospel that, like Jesus, our ministry will more than likely fall short of the expectations of others. One of the reasons Jesus was rejected was because he didn’t fit the expectations of the authorities. There was a particular way a rabbi was to behave. Jesus was so focused on building the reign of God that he often disregarded or minimized ritual traditions. The religious leaders found Jesus altogether too much for them.
Jesus also rattled some in his own community. Wasn’t he one just like them? How could he claim such authority? They failed to see that Jesus’ authority was not rooted in power and prestige but rather was an authority of service. To be a minister of the Gospel in our day requires a thick skin and an unflinching focus on the Gospel of love and compassion. Rejection by our own and even by some in authority may dampen our spirits but should never deter us from our baptismal call.
Again the words of St. Pope Leo the Great:
... just as the Apostle says: "We are all one in Christ."
No difference in office is so great that anyone can be
separated, through lowliness, from the head. In the
unity of faith and baptism, therefore, our community
From the Office of Readings, Roman Breviary, for November 10,
Feast of St. Leo the Great
This is most true in our celebration of the Eucharist. Though the ordained priest presides, it is the entire assembly who, as the Body of Christ, offers the sacrifice with the presider/celebrant. We are not spectators; as the Second Vatican Council taught: our full, active, and conscious participation is essential to the celebration. All present join with the priest-presider as concelebrants.
As we continue our Eucharistic celebration, we embrace as our own the Word proclaimed today, celebrating it now in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council which called us to acknowledge the power of the common priesthood of the baptized and the ordained in the journey to the reign of God, the path to the New Creation, so that that journey might be more readily recognized and more joyfully celebrated.