Priests: called to become what they offer
Holy Thursday, The Lord’s Supper, Year B (John 13:1-15)
March 29, 2018
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
WHEN Jesus Christ came as the promised Messiah, he brought to completion all the prophecies and promises of old. And at the last Passover Meal he celebrated in earthly life, he actualized in advance what all the previous Passovers had foreshadowed and symbolized – the liberation of the whole of mankind from the slavery to the Devil. In the bread and the wine that he handed to his “special disciples” as their spiritual food and drink, he made his person and his saving sacrifice present for all generations to come.
No other meal is more sacred and satisfying than the Eucharist that Jesus instituted at the Last Supper. No other sacrifice is more fruitful than the one that is made present every time the Eucharist is celebrated. No other Communion is more perfect on earth than the one that is achieved when a believer receives Christ’s body and blood properly disposed. No other perfect identification is attained on earth than the one that takes place between Christ, the Eternal Priest, and the priest who offers the Eucharistic sacrifice in obedience to the Lord’s command.
That identification is full of meaning and challenges. From the moment of their sacramental ordination, all priests are not just commanded and empowered to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice. They are also commissioned and expected to BECOME what they celebrate and offer—a LIVING EUCHARIST, just as Jesus is.
The Eucharist is “THANKSGIVING”—thanksgiving to God for the gifts of Creation and of His Providence, and most of all for the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. Hence, the life of the priest—of any priest—must be a life of thanksgiving.
The Eucharist is “SELF-GIVING”—the self-giving of Christ as the divine Victim to the Father in expiation for the sins of mankind, and the self-giving of Christ to all believers as food and drink of eternal life. Hence, the life of the priest—of any priest—must be a life of total self-giving to God and to His people. A priest no longer belongs to himself. He has been “consecrated”—made sacred—and offered up to God for ever. And God sends him to his brethren that he may be the “sacrament” of Christ’s total self-giving to his brethren.
The Eucharist is “LIFE-GIVING”—a source of life that flows from the sacrifice of the Cross and enlivens all the souls that it touches, heals, and renews with its fresh stream. The priest—any priest—is, likewise, called and sent to be a bearer, in the power of the Spirit, of the supernatural life earned by Christ, the Eternal Priest, on the altar of the Cross. A priest must give life, even at the cost of his own mortal life, in imitation of Christ.
This should give us some idea of the greatness of the nature and mission of the Catholic priest. We should pray that each of them may always be mindful of such greatness and live it out not just when he is at the altar, but every moment of his life.