Posted by: John B. Switzer, ObSB, PhD | January 24, 2018

First Sermon of a Newly-Ordained Priest

Patsy John Mom

I was just getting used to being a deacon, and now you’ve ordained me a priest!

As you can imagine, the topic of priesthood is on my mind this morning. But I don’t want to talk about the ordained priesthood. I’d rather talk about the priesthood that is shared by every Christian: the common priesthood of all believers, bestowed upon us by Christ at baptism.

In today’s gospel message (Mark 1:14-20)  Jesus says to Simon Peter and Andrew, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” If you have lived for any length of time here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, you are probably familiar with the nets used for different types of fishing.

Have you ever seen the kids from a local elementary school when their teacher takes them to the beach go seine fishing? When they pull their net onto the sand they seem so excited to see what they’ve caught. It’s always a surprise.

Maybe you’ve taken your own family to a local dock to go crabbing. It’s fun to lift those circular crab nets out of the water to see if a prize has been caught. And who can forget the gorgeous shrimp boats that sail in our local waters? As I see them I find myself wondering about the size of the nets that they drag beneath them.

When we coastians hear Jesus talking about fishing, we have an idea of what he means. But in today’s gospel he’s inviting his followers–and us–to a new kind of fishing. He’s inviting us to share in his own work: the work of scooping up humanity like fish, or crabs, or shrimp in a net. He’s inviting us to allow ourselves to be caught in his net. That net is the unbelievable love of God by which we are invited to be people of faith, people of love and justice, and people who are not afraid to seek for God in the very messiness that comes with every kind of fishing.

But once we are in the net of Christ, is there more to learn? Perhaps this is the place where I can use some creative homiletics to connect with the importance of priesthood.

You see, as I said before, every Christian is a member of the baptismal priesthood. We find this fact beautifully explained in the First Epistle of Peter (2:9) where we are described as “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.” The idea occurs again in the first chapter of the Book of Revelation (1:6). So there are two priesthoods in the church: the ordained priests who lead us in our sacrifice of praise as we gather around the altar on Sunday, and the priesthood that we all share because of our baptism.

But if we all share in Christ’s priesthood it seems wise that we should spend some time asking what that means. Specifically, if we’re all baptized priests, we need to get a grasp on what it means to be a priest. What is the essence of priesthood? What makes a priest a priest?

The answer, of course, is sacrifice. A priest offers sacrifice. But what is the sacrifice that the baptismal priesthood is called to give? The sacrifice of our lives. We are called to offer our very selves to God as a gift and sacrifice. And where do we offer this sacrifice? Don’t we need a sacred table, an altar on which to make this offering? Yes, we do. That table is always before us in our daily work and even in our play. It is offered to us constantly by God.

The altar on which we offer our lives to God is to be found everywhere. It can be the counter in your kitchen where you chop vegetables to make soup for your family. It can be a changing station in the restroom of a busy shopping mall where you put a new diaper on your infant child. It can be a desk in your office, a mop or broom, a lawnmower, a chalk board, and even the bed where you sleep and show affection to your spouse. As Christians, we are called to offer every moment to God in Christ. This even includes those moments when we know we are less than we should be. Offer them up. Never hesitate. All the moments of your life can be “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5) as you allow yourself to be caught up in the net of Christ the fisherman.

Should you choose to do so, you’ll make the world a place that is a little bit better. And on the last day, when you stand before Christ the Lord, he will place his hand on your shoulder and tell you: “Well done, good and faithful servant. I have received your sacrifice and I accept it.”

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