S+L logo

The Priesthood of Jesus Christ and our Priesthood

April 5, 2007
What an incredible model of priesthood we find in the Gospel for the Holy Thursday celebration: the Lord and Saviour who kneels before us to wash our feet in a gesture of humility and service! Earlier on in the meal on that fateful night, Jesus broke bread with his friends and his betrayer. Drinking from the cup of his blood creates a new and dynamic common bond. The very nature of the Eucharist implies a bond with God and with the community. Our destinies are intertwined. It is this “intertwining” that lies at the heart of the priesthood of Jesus Christ, and our priesthood. When we receive the Eucharist, we partake of the one who becomes food and drink for others. So must it be for us who receive the Lord's body and blood: our lives, too, must become a feast for the poor. We too must become food and drink for the hungry.
Throughout his life, Jesus is a priestly model of compassion. His authority attracts us – because of his compassion. The authority of his words; his penetrating, loving gaze at each one of us; the steadfastness of his faith. Ultimately, he exists for others, he exists to serve. He has been tested in all respects like us- he knows all of our difficulties; he is a tried man; he knows our condition from the inside and from the outside: only by this did he acquire a profound capacity for compassion. For one must have suffered in order to truly feel for others. He was priest–one who lived for others, who offered up everything of this sad but beautiful world to the God who loved him. That's the only kind of priesthood that makes a difference, and that matters, then and now.
The very opposite of a priest is a consumer, one who buys and amasses things. A priestly person is one who spends himself or herself gladly for others. This evening’s celebration of the Lord's supper invites us to look at what we have done with our baptism, and how we are a Eucharistic and priestly people. We must look at our own priesthood, whether it be the priesthood of the baptized or the ministerial priesthood, and ask ourselves for whom we really live and who we really love. Do we spend ourselves gladly for others?
If I am a ministerial priest and called “Father”, it is not simply because I have a prestigious academic background, a good formation, a title, a place of privilege. No, I am priest because I am servant, and I try to lay down my life publicly for the community. Jesus teaches us in this profound Gospel story that the true source of authority in the Church comes from living the life of servanthood, from laying down our lives for our friends. The only authority and power found in the priesthood is Gospel authority that comes from living the Paschal mystery. Seals and robes and Orders, and even Sacred Chrism, only confirm the confidence an authentic priestly person and leader must already possess in himself. Tonight I must ask myself: do I really function as the one who elicits the act of faith from people– as the one who builds up God’s community? Am I a footwasher and servant? Do I pattern my living and dying on Jesus Christ, the eternal priest of compassion and service?
–Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.,
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
“At this table we put aside every worldly separation based on culture, class, or other differences. Baptized, we no longer admit to distinctions based on age or sex or race or wealth. This communion is why all prejudice, all racism, all sexism, all deference to wealth and power must be banished from our parishes, our homes, and our lives. This communion is why we will not call enemies those who are human beings like ourselves. This communion is why we will not commit the world's resources to an escalating arms race while the poor die. We cannot. Not when we have feasted here on the "body broken" and "blood poured out" for the life of the world."
–Joseph Cardinal Bernardin
from Our Communion, Our Peace, Our Promise
1984 Pastoral Letter on the Liturgy