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By Tim Carpenter, Director of Religious Education

Sharing in the Priesthood of Christ

 

“THE LAY APOSTOLATE, however, is a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself.” (Lumen Gentium, 33)

Jesus initiated the Church for the purpose of continuing his mission. Each member of the Church is commissioned into that mission when they are baptized. From the Second Vatican Council, the Church articulated beautifully our roles as priest, prophet and king. (Lumen Gentium 2, 40) Today we will look at how we share in Christ’s role as priest and how active reading of Scripture can help us live that out.

First of all, what is a priest? A priest is one who offers sacrifice to God. It is clear that Jesus is the High Priest who offers to the Father the one, true sacrifice for all of mankind. So then, how do we share in that? Lumen Gentium 34 proclaims, “He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men.” That definition begs the question, what “spiritual worship” did Jesus offer to the Father? The most essential elements of Jesus’ teaching and ministry are those that motivate his every word and action: listening to the Father and doing the Father’s will.

The commitment to these two actions shapes everything that Jesus does, including his action as priest, prophet and king. That means it is the Father who leads him to his preaching, teaching, suffering and his death. They are, for him and for us, the very essence of holiness. He is holy. We are destined to be and become holy as we follow Jesus in this way. On the flip side is sin, the refusal to hear the Father’s word or to do his will.

Jesus heard directly from the Father. We, too, can hear directly from the Father. One way is through the Scriptures. The Church proclaims that the privileged place for hearing the Scriptures is in the liturgy. It also emphasizes the importance and benefit of interacting with the living word of God on our own, the reading and listening to the word in personal prayer. Pope Benedict XVI states in Verbum Domini 86, “In some sense the prayerful reading of the Bible, personal and communal, must always be related to the eucharistic celebration.”

If the liturgy is the privileged place for Scripture, this means that they are being proclaimed publicly for all to hear. This is telling. “Hearing” the word implies submission. It means that one has quieted oneself and is listening for God’s voice. It implies receiving the word that God is speaking through the Scriptures. This is essential to living as priests.

There is a deep connection between hearing the word of God in the liturgy and our participation in the Eucharist. As we share in Christ’s priesthood, we share in offering to the Father the one true sacrifice that atones for our sins. As priests, we can add to that gift our own gift of self. As complex human beings with layers of sins, wounds and imperfections, we have much to offer God. How do we sift through it all? The Church is telling us that when we listen to the Scriptures, we are being oriented toward our participation as a priest in the sacrifice of the Mass. Let the Father, through the Scriptures, guide us in this offering. Let him shape the gift we offer back to him, the wounds, imperfections and sins that he knows need the most attention.

Engaging with the Scriptures in our personal prayer time should increase our sensitivity to God’s voice, (“For my sheep know my voice”) so that, at Mass, we listen more easily and hear more clearly God’s guidance in shaping our hearts as we offer to him our spiritual worship, both for his glory and for the salvation of men.