Derived from the Latin word munus, the term munera implies a duty to give or an obligation or a donation to the public service. Three munera or duties of Christ come from His three-fold identity: He is priest, prophet, and king. The duty to teach, based on Christ’s role as Prophet; the duty to sanctify, based on Christ’s role as Priest; and the duty to shepherd, based on Christ’s role as King.
A prophet is a messenger sent by God, a person who speaks for God. He or she witnesses to God, calls people to conversion, and may also point to the future. Prophets were often killed for their message. Jesus is none other than the Word-made-flesh, both human and divine or God in the flesh. He called the world to turn away from sin and return to the Father. For that, He was crucified. In Scripture Jesus is also portrayed a prophet. Crowds identified Him as “Jesus the prophet” (Matthew 21:11). He even spoke of Himself as a prophet: “No prophet is accepted in his own native place” (Luke 4:24). He foretold his passion and resurrection.
Christ is the High Priest. A priest is a mediator, or bridge, between God and human beings. Christ offered His life as sacrifice to the Father on behalf of all. Once a year on the Day of Atonement the Jewish high priest went into the Holy of Holies in the Temple. There he offered sacrifice to God to make up for his own sins and the sins of the people. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews compared Jesus to Melchizedek, a mysterious, superior priest in the Old Testament who blessed Abraham (Gen 14:18-20). Jesus is the Great High Priest, since He alone is both divine and human and, as such, He is the perfect mediator. Jesus is not only the perfect priest, holy and sinless, but the perfect sacrifice. The sacrifice of Jesus need never be made again. Jesus “entered once for all (Gk. ἐφάπαξ) into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12). Jesus continues his role as priest. “He is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
A king is a person who has supreme authority over a territory. When the Chosen People were ruled by kings, they then became a nation. They longed for a Messiah who would again make them great. Jesus is spoken of as a king in the Gospels. Gabriel announced to Mary that the Lord God would give her son the throne of David his father, and he would rule over the house of Jacob forever. Magi looked for a newborn king of the Jews. When Jesus last entered Jerusalem, crowds hailed him as a king. He was arrested for making himself king, and the soldiers mocked him as one. When Pilate asked if he were king of the Jews, Jesus replied, “You say so,” and he clarified, “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (John 18:36). The charge written against Jesus was “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Jesus announced the kingdom of God. His mission was to have God reign in the hearts of all and to have peace and justice in the world. Jesus exercised his royal office by serving.