Priests take snapshots before Pope Francis celebrates an open-air mass at Samanes Park in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on July 6, 2015. Pope Francis, in South America on a three-nation tour, will perform mass with more than a million faithful expected to attend -- many of whom camped out overnight. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO / AFP PHOTO / Vincenzo PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)



BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo


HOMILY: * Heb 5 : 1 – 10, Mk 2 : 18 – 22.

The New Testament priest, according to the 1st reading of today has the following characteristics;
(i) He is appointed from among men ; He is taken from among human beings – limited academically, spiritually and psychologically by the societal conditions of his time.
(ii) He is bound to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin ; One of the principal functions of a priest is to offer sacrifices. That is why frankincense was part of the gifts given to Jesus by the Wise men from the East, Matt 2 : 12.
(iii) He deals gently with the ignorant and wayward ; The teaching ministry is his principal ministry, so he can sympathize with sinners – He hears people’s sins and because he is also a sinner like them is in a better position to make sin offering, Mk 1 : 40 – 45.
(iv) No one takes this honour upon himself – No one ordains himself a priest. The priestly anointing must be confered by a legitimate authority.
(v) His title is of the order of Melchizedek of old ; He mirrors Melchizedek to a certain degree in biological detachment, celibate chastity and priestly integrity, example John the Baptist, Jesus, Stephen, Apostle Paul, John, etc.

In the gospel we see the image of the Bridegroom Saviour whose presence encourages celebration rather than fasting. The bridegroom’s attendants cannot fast while the bridegroom is still with them. This new Image of the priesthood presents the high priest, according to the Letter to the Hebrews whose main offering was ‘prayer and supplications with loud cries and tears to God’. New Testament priests therefore act like God’s Internet connecting people to God without too much fasting and ascetism but through the simple disciplines of Eucharistic purity, Heb 10 : 19 – 22. As long as we are basking in the euphoria of his grace, we may not need to fast, but once we ( or our brothers) are not in a state of grace, then we need to fast.

The basterdization of the priesthood of today is being done by the ravaging forces of pentecostalism and neopaganism. Pentecostalism makes the priesthood ordinary and general – (i) It deemphasizes sacrifices. (ii) It reduces the entry barrier to the priestly cast and makes everyone take the honour on himself. (iii) It does not derive its title according to the order of Melchizedek of old and makes no special priestly sacrifices like celibacy and poverty.

Neopaganism makes the priesthood too reserved and special – (i) Here the priest becomes the ‘prayer contractor’ who alone does the special work of deliverance and healing of family roots (‘oru ezi n’ulo). (ii) It overemphasizes sacrifices and rituals as if God can only be pacified by them. (iii) It encourages fake ‘dibia’ pastors who become priests as long as they can solve people’s problems. (iv) It does not regard any ecclesiastical structures or liturgical priestly rubrics but keeps inventing its own rituals, rites and sacramentals. Nobody puts new wine into old wine skins. The priesthood of the new Testament must flow from Christ’s own priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek of old. We must watch against so many people who claim to be priests today and collect people’s tithes illegitimately . The renewal of the spirit is key to the New Testament dispensation of the Priesthood, both for the ministerial and universal priesthood, 1 Pet 2 : 9. This is the Holy Ghost era – a special era of the renewal in the spirit. May we allow His Spirit to blow in His Church again.

May God bless you today!

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