The priest as mediator
We have to understand well the role of a mediator. He is like a bridge that connects two ends. A perfect mediator is one where he is both in the one end as in the other. He just cannot be in one end but not in the other, though he may orient or dispose himself to the other without reaching it.
Christ is a mediator between God and man. In fact, he is the sole perfect mediator because he is both God and man. St. Paul testified to this truth of our faith. He said, “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” (1 Tim 2,5) Christ is the perfect mediator because he is not only God but is also man. And he is not only man, but also God. As the Athanasian Creed would put it, Christ is “perfect God and perfect man.”
This truth of our faith is, of course, a mystery. We cannot fully understand it. But we believe it because Christ said so and this is what the Church now teaches. “I and the Father are one,” Christ said at one time, pointing to his divinity. (Jn 10,30)
As to his humanity, St. Paul said these relevant words: “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Gal 4,4-5) Only a man could be “born under the law.” This little explanation about the mediator is important and relevant because we, as human persons, patterned after Christ, have to learn the ways of a mediator. Of course, of all men and women, the priests are especially meant to be mediators, because they are at the forefront of the task of reconciling men with God.
With the sacrament of Holy Orders, they are configured to Christ, head of the Church, and participate in Christ’s task of mediation in a very intimate way. That is why priests, of all men and women, have to be particularly adept in this art of mediation. While they are already sacramentally configured to Christ as head of the Church, they have the special, albeit very demanding, duty of truly assuming the mind and heart of Christ. If everyone is meant to be “another Christ,” the priests have to be particularly so. They have to lead the way.
This can mean many things. Their mind and heart should be both on heaven even as they are on earth. They should exude the fragrance of heaven even as they can also have the odor of earth, just like what Pope Francis said about priests as shepherds—they have to have the smell of the sheep which they tend. Like Christ, they have to identify closely both with God and with men. Like Christ, they have to pray constantly so as to be always in touch with God whose will and ways they have to follow.
Let’s remember that Christ said: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me.” (Jn 6,38) Like Christ, priests have to mix well with the people, adapting themselves to them all the way to assuming their sins without committing sin.
Just imagine what practical considerations can be made from this ideal of priests as mediators like Christ!