Preface 29: Sundays in Ordinary Time I
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through His cross and resurrection
He freed us from sin and death
and call us to the glory that has made us
a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people set apart.
Everywhere we proclaim your mighty works
for you have called us out of darkness
into your own wonderful light.
And so with all the choirs of angels in heave
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise.
Themes for the Year of the Priesthood
We need to acknowledge that some ordained men have sinned, condemn their evildoing, and repair the damage they have done to the Church. The sins of priests are a grave scandal in our day. May God have mercy on us all!
Jesus is our sole High Priest
"By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a [person] baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes. He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them' (Matt. 18:20)" (SC, #7).
Priests are instruments used by Jesus to accomplish His purposes.
- "Instrumental causality": Priests (and all ministers of the sacraments) are instruments used by Jesus to bless His People).
- Examples of instrumental causality:
- Talking to people on the telephone or on a radio broadcast.
- Signing a check or writing a letter with a pen.
- Playing a musical composition on a musical instrument.
- Driving a car on a journey (?).
- Painting with a paint brush.
In all of these examples, the instrument does not interfere with the personal relationship; it is used as a means to an end: communicating, giving, entertaining, serving, edifying. Priests do not get in the way of Jesus; they are used by Him to build and bless His Body.
The actions of Jesus in the sacraments are infallible. The sacraments work "ex opere operate" (from the work having been worked), not "ex opere operantis" (from the work of the human being doing the work). The sins and defects of the human instruments do not keep the LORD from blessing His People; the sins and defects of the human ministers are charged to their account alone.
What is required for a valid sacrament is the proper form and matter along with an adequate intention to do what the Church intends the minister to do. The grace given in the sacraments to those who have the right disposition is independent of the sins of the ministers.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
- Prophetic criticism of Temple sacrifice (e.g., Psalm 50) foreshadowed the end of that era. Jesus said to the woman at the well, "Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; 9 and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth" (Jn 4:21-24).
- "To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, 'the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,' but especially under the Eucharistic species" (SC, #7).
- Despite the root meaning of the word (inter-, "between" + cedere, "go" = "go between"), no intercessor can come between the person being prayed for and God, their Creator and LORD.
- The hierarchy of the Church (pope, bishops, priests, deacons) does not form a pipeline between Heaven and Earth. God acts immediately in the hearts of all of His children.
- God commands and rewards prayer on behalf of others. We do not get in God's way when, as an act of faith, hope, and love, we pray as we have been taught to pray: "Thy will be done... Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil."
Praying for vocations = praying for fidelity
- We don't just have a shortage of priests. We have a shortage of faith, hope, and love among all of the People of God. The shortage of priests is caused by a widespread loss of faith and increase in sin in our day.
- Sin is easy. Sanctity is hard. Our culture glorifies the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, and sloth. It mocks humility, generosity, chastity, meekness (gentleness, self-control), temperance, and zeal.
- I doubt that God will be moved to send workers into the harvest if our prayer is, "Get someone else to sacrifice themselves so that the Body may be saved." The health of the priesthood depends upon the health of the whole Body — and the Body of Christ in the United States is very, very sick and sinful. We have been poisoned by the gospel of the world — hedonism in all its forms. "Suit yourself. Take care of number one. If it feels good, it can't be evil. If it feels good, do it; if that feels good, do it again."
- God has not abandoned us. We have abandoned God.
Priesthood of the Faithful
The priesthood of all members of the Body of Christ is fundamental. The Holy Orders come from it and represent the fundamental priesthood of the Body. The common priesthood is first. The ministerial priesthood is second.
- "Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. ... You are 'a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises' of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Pet 2:5,9).
All believers (priests included!) have but one essential gift to give to God in return for God's love: their own heart. No one else can make this sacrifice for us. Each of us in the solitude of prayer must make a decision to surrender to God and let God be our sole God (the First Commandment — and the first principle of Islam).
- "The Church . . . earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers. . . . They should give thanks to God. Offering the immaculate victim, not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, they should learn to offer themselves" (SC § 48).
- "The faithful join in the offering of the Mass by virtue of their royal priesthood" (LG § 10).
- The participation of lay people in Christ's priestly office
- "Hence the laity, dedicated as they are to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and prepared so that even richer fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit - indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born - all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives."
- Lay people share in Christ's priesthood: ever more united with him, they exhibit the grace of Baptism and Confirmation in all dimensions of their personal family, social and ecclesial lives, and so fulfill the call to holiness addressed to all the baptized.
- Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church "a kingdom, priests for his God and Father." The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ's mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are "consecrated to be ... a holy priesthood."
This is the sacrifice that Jesus made on the Cross: He gave Himself to the Father on our behalf. Jesus' self-offering is an offering of infinite worth. It fulfills all of the OT laws of sacrifice.
On the Cross, Jesus is Priest, Victim, and Altar of Sacrifice. He is the New Temple of God; Christians who survived the destruction of the Jewish Temple (70 AD) interpreted that event as a sign that the Old Testament (Covenant) had come to an end.
In every Mass (Eucharist), those who take Communion should offer themselves to the Father in union with Jesus. This is the universal priesthood of the faithful. As with Jesus' act of love on the Cross, the person who makes a decision to give their whole self to God acts priest, victim, and altar of sacrifice.
The priesthood of the faithful is not optional. Those who refuse to give themselves completely to God cut themselves off from Communion with Jesus — they ex-communicate themselves.
The time of Communion in the Mass is our "altar call."
- Those who go forward to receive Communion are showing in word and deed that they are making a personal commitment to Jesus.
- Those who refuse to fulfill their Sunday obligation are showing in word and deed that they are not personally committed to the good of the Body of Christ (both in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine and in the body of believers assembled to receive Jesus and give themselves to Jesus).
- On entering the People of God through faith and Baptism, one receives a share in this people's unique, priestly vocation: "Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people 'a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.' The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood."
We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice of praise
- The moral life is spiritual worship. We "present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rom 12:1), within the Body of Christ that we form and in communion with the offering of his Eucharist. In the liturgy and the celebration of the sacraments, prayer and teaching are conjoined with the grace of Christ to enlighten and nourish Christian activity. As does the whole of the Christian life, the moral life finds its source and summit in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
- I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.