At this Holy Mass our thoughts go back to that moment when, through prayer and the laying on of hands, the bishop made us sharers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, so that we might be “consecrated in truth” (Jn 17:19), as Jesus besought the Father for us in his high-priestly prayer. He himself is the truth. He has consecrated us, that is to say, handed us over to God for ever, so that we can offer men and women a service that comes from God and leads to him. But does our consecration extend to the daily reality of our lives – do we operate as men of God in fellowship with Jesus Christ? This question places the Lord before us and us before him. “Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?”
After this homily, I shall be addressing that question to each of you here and to myself as well. Two things, above all, are asked of us: there is a need for an interior bond, a configuration to Christ, and at the same time there has to be a transcending of ourselves, a renunciation of what is simply our own, of the much-vaunted self-fulfilment. We need, I need, not to claim my life as my own, but to place it at the disposal of another – of Christ. I should be asking not what I stand to gain, but what I can give for him and so for others. Or to put it more specifically, this configuration to Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, who does not take, but rather gives – what form does it take in the often dramatic situation of the Church today?
Homily, Chrism Mass, 2012
Reflection – Well, this will be the last of the Holy Week/Triduum homilies I will be going through this year. It’s also the one that got all the headlines, if you pay attention to that kind of thing. We’ll get to that section of the homily next time. As usual, the media was inflammatory, inaccurate, and ill-informed. Hence, this blog!
Now this homily is given by the Pope to the priests at the Chrism Mass, and so speaks very directly of the obligations and governing spirituality of the ordained priesthood. But don’t all you laity think you can just tune this out! The ordained priesthood is essentially different from but ordered to the common priesthood of the faithful. In other words, what I am called to live as a priest is directly tied to what you are called to live, or rather what we are all called to live, as baptized Christians.
Also, it’s good for the laity to know and reflect on what their priests are genuinely being asked to do and be by the Lord, so you can pray for us. It’s a very high standard indeed, and we are all (as you all well know) just ordinary men, generally no better or worse in our natural humanity than any other men.
‘To place my life at the disposal of another’ – this is the heart of it. This profound penetration into the mystery of the Church we find in that phrase is something we need to go into a lot more, something we need to talk about a lot more. It is so engrained in us to look on our lives as belonging to ourselves, as somehow being about ourselves, as somehow being ‘ours’ – with perhaps some acknowledgment of Christ and God somewhere in there, if that’s what we like, if that’s what matters to us.
This is not our Christian religion. It just… isn’t. ‘My life is at the service of the Gospel’, Paul writes. And that’s not just for Paul or for the ordained priest. It’s for you, too. To be at the disposal of the other who is Christ—this is what it means to be a Christian.
Paul Evdokimov wrote in his book The Struggle With God that every Christian is either a martyr or an idolator. In other words, Christ comes first and we lay our lives down for him, or we are worshiping some other God. Strong words, but I don’t see any other way to look at it, frankly.
And of course this disposing our life for Christ means disposing it for our brothers and sisters—love, service, apostolate. It also means existing in a certain relationship to the Church, and I hope to blog about this as the next days go on. A difficult and painful topic, perhaps, but let’s see where it goes. As always (these days) stay tuned…