By His Design, For Us
The Priesthoood of all the Baptised and the Hierarchical Priesthood are participations in the priesthood of Christ but in different ways; we did not create it, it is by His design for our benefit. Sharing in His priesthood, we can share in His self-sacrificial gift, His liturgy; in doing this, His worship becomes our own.
Reading: Hebrews 7:25 – 8:6
The following homily was preached to the student brothers during compline. You can listen here or read below:
Every Priest, every Christian, knows their weaknesses and shortcomings but it is encouraging to know that our priesthood, whether it be the priesthood of all the baptised or the hierarchical priesthood, is but a participation in Christ’s own. It is of his design. Hebrews talks about Jesus as the High Priest. The one who gives a perfect sacrifice once and for all, who sacrifices himself: ‘holy, innocent and uncontaminated’.
This priesthood of Jesus, all Christians participate in, though we do it in different ways.
All of us are called to make a sacrifice of our lives to the Lord, that we might be ‘holy and blameless before him in love’. We are to be, as Leviticus and 1 Peter says, holy, as the Lord our God is holy. St. Paul compares our bodies to a temple, in other words, a place of sacrifice where there is the dwelling of the divine presence. We offer our lives for him and our neighbour, just as he offered his life for our neighbour and us. We are to use our bodies for prayer and to live lives of faithfulness.
In other words, we are to be like he is, though of course we do it imperfectly. We love, and we are gracious, because he first loved us and showed us grace and mercy, as we read in 1 John. We can say then that our common priesthood, which is an expression of God’s love for us, which we live as an expression of love for him and our neighbour, is dependent upon and derived from his priesthood. We can, all of us, make prayers and sacrifices and live a life of fidelity to his commandments. This is what the priesthood that every baptised person shares in. It sanctifies the world by bringing the light of Christ to the world through us, in love.
All the baptised stand in the place of Christ in a certain way in the world, as his ambassadors. Not in an absolute way but in a way which is dependent upon him and on the rest of his body.
In a similar way the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood which is more particular. It is also a participation in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: ‘Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers’.
This is not a denigration of the ministerial priesthood, it is an exaltation of it! It is not our own priesthood, but his we share in.
The hierarchical priesthood is for a particular service to the whole body. Of course, every member of the body is called to service, but not in the same way. Each part of the body is no less necessary or important, but they are different, just as St. Therese of Lisieux points out our vocations are as different as flowers. Neither less beautiful, neither unimportant, but certainly different.
Through the action of Jesus Christ, acting through the hierarchical priesthood, which he instituted for our benefit, the one saving sacrifice of Christ is made re-present, sins are forgiven, the sick annointed. Hebrews makes clear, the sacrifice offered is not a new sacrifice, we’re not re-sacrificing, or re-crucifying Jesus, no; we are making re-present the one saving sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus offered himself, once and for all, the perfect sacrifice.
Just as we become the body of Christ because the bread is changed into the body of Christ and we consume it; so too the priest at mass represents the Church because he represents Christ, the head of the mystical body. He stands in the place of Christ, the head, and offers Christ’s own perfect worship, which is our own perfect worship because it is his, his sacrifice to the Father. This is what we Catholics mean when we talk about worship: Our participation in the perfect adoration, perfect sacrifice, perfect obedience, perfect fidelity, perfect love, of the Son to the Father, in the Holy Spirit, on calvary. That’s what we do at every Mass. The worship is perfect because it is Christ’s own. We can only do it, it is only ours, because we are in him.
The Holy Spirit descends, the words of Jesus are uttered, the bread becomes the body of Christ, the perfect sacrifice of Christ is offered, and by consuming the body of Christ, we become the body of Christ, broken, shared, and consumed for others. We become a place of sacrifice, a temple, a place of right worship. Inebriated by the Holy Spirit. Filled with the divine presence not only for our sake but for others.
Never forget that, it is the worship offered by Jesus. No matter what mass you go to, what language its in, what the music is, what situation you find yourself in… it is always the perfect worship of Jesus. We did not create it, it is of his design.