The Constitution

Chris the priest

Today at Holy Mass, we read the conclusion of Christ’s “priestly” prayer. He ministers as High Priest of all creation, offering Himself, the Eternal Word, in union with His human flesh and blood.

All Christians share in Christ’s priesthood. We all find communion with God, and with each other, by offering ourselves to the heavenly Father along with the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus.

We base our entire lives on this offering of ourselves with Christ. It gives our lives their true meaning. Our participation in Holy Mass situates us in the universe properly. It makes prayer possible. One Christ, Head and members, glorifying the Father with the eternal and infinite sacrifice of love that Christ revealed on the cross.

Now, for this offering to occur, Christ instituted the sacred priesthood of the altar. He chose from among His disciples those who would minister at the celebration of the Eucharist. Those who would stand in His place, to bring about the union of the Head and the members of the Body of Christ. The sacred priestly ministry of the altar.

priestMy dear Protestant mother and I have been locked in argument lately about this. The sacred priesthood, conferred by the laying on of hands through succession in office, going back to the Apostles. The indelible sacramental mark that makes a man a priest.

We Catholics rightly recognize that in the upper ranks of the hierarchy, a false sense of superiority has produced a class of arrogant and detached men, men who seem incapable of governing the Church honestly and effectively.

So a lot of people rightly question the whole idea of a sacred priesthood. The whole idea that Jesus Himself chose from among His whole flock a “clergy,” a group of men who stand apart, consecrated shepherds, with a unique authority. Why not just have a ‘democratic’ Church?

Now, the building is on fire, to be sure. But that doesn’t mean that the basic idea of the foundation is wrong, or even really changeable. The Son of God did, in fact, start the sacred priesthood of the New Covenant at the Last Supper. He did so in order to make it possible for all of us Christians to exercise our baptismal priesthood as members of His Body. And He made the celebrant at Mass the shepherd.

Certainly there’s a better way to do this, better than the dispiriting mess we’re living through now. But we could search high and low, combing the Scriptures and the countless tomes of learned theology, and we will never a find another, better “constitution” of the Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave us our “Constitution” when He walked the earth, when He celebrated the first Mass, when He breathed the Holy Spirit upon the original Apostles.

Our task is to serve Him, to obey Him, to trust Him. To offer ourselves to the Father, in union with Him.

One thought on “The Constitution

  1. Fr. Mark – there seems to be a relative paucity of biblical exegesis on two very important topics: the priesthood and the Holy Spirit. I obtained a copy of The Catholic Priesthood: Biblical Foundations by Fr. Thomas Lane (Emmaus Road Publishing, 2016). In the next few days I’ll receive I Believe in the Holy Spirit by Fr. Yves Congar (3-volume set in one binding). To me, the 800-pound gorilla that sits between us Catholics and our Protestant brethren is the priesthood. A priest consecrates ordinary bread and wine by the power of the Holy Spirit to become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Savior and offers this eternal, living sacrifice in union with all the assembled believers in thanksgiving for our Lord’s one perfect offering of Himself on the Cross as a perfect atonement for our sins. Transcending time and space as the perfect singular act of redemption for all humanity: past, present, and future. Like eternity and the Trinity and so much of our Faith, my puny mind cannot comprehend it all, these divine mysteries. Is there a Frank Sheed for our time who can help bridge the gap of belief and understanding for us all?

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