Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

29 October 2012

Priestly People

"God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into His holy people.  He now anoints you with the Chrism of salvation.  As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of His Body, sharing everlasting life."

Whether or not this prayer was recited at your Baptism, the sacrament "hard-wires" you to Jesus and His Church.  As Jesus fulfills by nature the three-fold office of Prophet, Priest, and King, the grace of Baptism equips you to undertake the three tasks of evangelization, sacrifice, and care.

Christ the Prophet

To evangelize is to declare Good News.  In his Catholicism series, Fr. Barron reminds us of how a royal emissary would announce "eu-angelion! eu-angelion!" to townspeople, thus alerting them to the "good tidings" of military victory.  What is the Good News for us?  The first reading from Jeremiah summarizes it in a manner appropriate to the First Covenant: the Lord has delivered the faithful remnant after a time of exile, and has brought her to a place of refreshment and consolation.  God's action on Judah's behalf stems from their covenant relationship--"I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my first-born."

Christ the Priest

To sacrifice is to take what belongs to us and to destroy it, make it useless.  We offer God what we value in order to demonstrate that God is our greatest prize.  The Jews sacrificed animals and produce by burning them.  Sometimes they would partake of the sacrificed animal in order to show their connection with the destined Recipient.  In the same way, we partake of the Eucharistic sacrifice that Jesus offered for our salvation so that we may become one with Him and with each other.

The letter to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus as High Priest, an office familiar to the Jews as their chief representative and offerer of sacrifice.  Jesus differs radically from the Jewish High Priests in that He is both priest and victim.  As God incarnate, He perfectly restores Communion with God even as He uniquely enters into our human limitations and frustrations.

Christ the Shepherd

To care is to approach people with great respect for their dignity, not in a patronizing or humiliating manner.  Jesus even asks Bartimaeus what He could do for him.  He does not reduce His Lordship to the status of a customer service representative or Santa Claus.  The stakes are higher than what we want for Christmas, or the next gadget.  Rather it involves our sight--our willingness to perceive the Presence of God wherever He may be found.  To awaken another person to awareness of, and reverence for, that Presence is the best thing anyone can do for another.  All of us can exercise pastoral care in our thoughts, words, and actions; in our communal participation in the sacred liturgy; in our daily moral living; and in our prayerful openness to Church teaching.

This weekend gives us a double whammy in the U.S. observance of Priest Appreciation Sunday within the worldwide Year of Faith.  While all men and women are priests by virtue of Baptism, certain men among the baptized present themselves to the Church, who in God's name forms and calls them to the ministerial priesthood.  In a total and visible way ordained priests exercise the threefold office of Christ as teacher/evangelizer, sanctifier/sacrificer, and shepherd/caregiver.

Among all Christian bodies the Catholic and Orthodox retain the priesthood to offer the Lord's mystical sacrifice.  Holy Mass is more than the Church "walking down memory lane," remembering what Jesus did for us so long ago; rather, it is earth uniting with heaven in the worship of the Thrice-Holy.

Chris the Prophet, Priest, and Shepherd
(Congratulations to Bishop Cullen, my Ordaining Prelate, fifty years a priest!)

As a priest for over nine years, the only sufficient response for my participation in this legacy of love is gratitude.

"Let us give thanks to the Lord our God."  "It is right and just."

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