Ordinary Time - Week 15b

Love and veneration for the priesthood

(From Conversation with God, Fernandez Carvajal)

All baptised persons can apply to themselves Saint Paul's words to the Christians of Ephesus which we find in the Second Reading of today's Mass: "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him." Through Baptism and Confirmation all the Christian faithful belong to "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people." The baptised, says the Second Vatican Council, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all the works of Christian men they may offer spiritual sacrifices. By their sharing in the priesthood of Christ, the faithful take an active part in the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Altar. They sanctify the world through their secular tasks, sharing in the one mission of the Church by means of the different vocations they have received from God. Housewives, for example, sanctify the various aspects of motherhood and related duties; sick people are called to offer up their suffering lovingly to God; each one makes a pleasing offering to God of his daily tasks and circumstances.

From the ranks of the faithful, all of whom have this common priesthood, some are called by God, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, to exercise the ministerial priesthood. This second priesthood builds upon the first one, but they are essentially different. By means of the consecration received in Holy Orders, the priest becomes an instrument of Jesus Christ, to whom he offers his entire being, in order to bring the grace of Redemption to all mankind. He is a man chosen from among men and appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. What then is the priest's identity? That of Christ. Each one of us Christians can and should be not just any other Christ, but Christ himself. But in the priest this happens in a direct way, by virtue of the sacrament.

Our Lord, who is present among us in many ways, is so particularly in the person of the priest. Every priest is a great gift of God to the world. He is Jesus who goes about doing good; he cures illnesses, he brings peace and joy to men's minds; he is the living instrument of Christ in the world. He offers Our Lord his voice, his hands, his whole being. At Mass, he renews in persona Christi the redemptive Sacrifice of Calvary itself. He makes Christ's Redemption present and effective within history. Pope John Paul II reminded the clergy of Brazil that Jesus identifies himself with us in such a way in carrying out the powers he conferred upon us, that it is as if our personality disappears before his, since it is He himself who acts through us. It is Christ who changes the substance of bread and wine into his Body and Blood at Mass. And it is Jesus himself who, in the sacrament of Penance, utters the authoritative and fatherly words your sins are forgiven. It is He who speaks when the priest, carrying out his ministry in the name and in the spirit of the Church, announces the Word of God. It is Christ himself who cares for the sick, for children and sinners, when he enfolds them with the love and pastoral care of the sacred ministries.

A priest is of more value to mankind than the entire material universe. We must pray constantly for the holiness of priests, helping them and sustaining them with our prayer and our affection. We must see Christ himself in them.