In this morning’s scripture, an excerpt from the first letter of Peter, the apostle testifies that the Church is “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart” and further “you are now God’s people”.
All these ascriptions are biblical allusions to Israel- these are the names by which Israel was first called in the Old Testament. The apostle’s point is that the Church is Israel made new, redeemed and transformed by Christ.
The purpose of Israel was to reveal the presence of the one, true and living God to the world and to exemplify, through their unique way of life, the values of a people who lived in relationship with God. Therefore, the purpose of Israel, was not simply introverted, intended to advance the causes and interests of those privileged to by members of Israel, but extroverted- intended to introduce the one, true God to the world and to invite others to share with them a relationship with the living and true God.
What is true for Israel is true for the Church. The Church is Israel, redeemed and transformed by Christ. The purpose of the Church is to introduce Christ the Lord to the world and invite people to share his unique way of life.
We can only be what the apostle describes- a chosen race, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a people set apart- God’s people if we are intentionally engaged in the Church’s mission to introduce people to Christ and inviting people to share his unique way of life. The apostle is not merely complementing us by calling the Church these wonderful things, he is setting a standard, reminding us who we are so that we can do what God in Christ wants us to do.
To be a “chosen race” means to be set apart for mission. To be a “holy nation” means that we are active participants in a unique way of life, that is intended to make us ever more like Jesus Christ. To be a “royal priesthood” means that we prioritize service and sacrifice, and sacrifice for the sake of service. To truly be God’s people means that we are living in accord with God’s commandments- particularly the commandment to love one another as God in Christ has loved us.
Is this who we are?
To be a Christian means we have abandoned the pretense that our life can simply be self-directed and self-created, merely an exercise of will to power and the fulfillment of our own desires. The Christian does not lead a self-directed life. The Christian leads a Christ-directed life and this way of life is called the Church.
Christ displays his divine power in today’s Gospel- healing a blind man of his affliction. It was actions like this that left his disciples both amazed and afraid.
Christ is the revelation of God, and he can only be the revelation of God if he is really and truly God. It was through his mighty and astounding deeds that his disciples saw his divine identity with their own eyes.
Christ heals a blind man of his physical affliction, but a deeper and more penetrating affliction is a spiritual blindness, that, at its worst, is a refusal to see Christ’s revelation. A revelation is first and foremost, a vision, a way of seeing, this new way of seeing provokes us to change our way of thinking and acting. We see Christ first, and from this revelation, we are invited to think and act differently.
And so Christ reveals himself to us, in Word, in Sacrament, in the poor, and in the Church, but are we willing to see him or is his revelation, or do we look away, even blind ourselves to his reality- lest we have to change? If we see we might believe and if we believe we might have to change.
And it is in our refusal to see Christ, to believe and to change, that we choose darkness over light, blindness over vision.