Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Priest is the man of the Eucharist

“Towards a Renewed Vision of Priestly Ministry and Identity”
Fr Tom Rosica CSB,
Salt + Light Catholic Media FoundationCanada
at Eucharistic Congress Dublin, 2012.

To properly understand the priest as a man of the Eucharist, we must first understand the notion of sacrifice in the New Testament.  The word ‘sacrifice’ describes the self-giving of Jesus and the Christian. Jesus' self-giving was a dedication of himself to the Father on behalf of all people. The sacrifice of the Christian consists in the giving of oneself in union with Jesus. The Eucharist is a summary of Jesus' life, a call to lay down one's life for others. The laying down of Jesus' life for the whole of humankind is not simply a gift but that which gives life; he dies in order to live and give life. Thus the body of Jesus was not simply slain, but "given for you." In fact, Paul's consistent emphasis is that Christ died "for others" (I Corinthians 8:11; Thessalonians 5:10), which in turn also shows us the way God wants us to live. "He died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves" (II Corinthians 5:15).

If we are to become authentic priests of Jesus Christ, we must become people who are living  sacrifices; people who are grateful and live lives of  gratitude. It is a terrible disjunction to preside at the Eucharist and to be someone without a grateful heart. To be a priest fully is to be a grateful person.  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.

The pillar of the renewal of priestly life is the liturgy.  If the priest does not rediscover the true meaning of the holy sacrifice of the Mass, he cannot find himself.  The protagonist of the liturgy is Christ, not the Pope, the Cardinals in Rome, and not even the parish priest.  By living the liturgy, we can enter into the life of God, and only thus can we priests journey effectively with the men and women of our time and of all time. Nevertheless the liturgical reform must concern itself not only with texts and ceremonies, rubrics and rituals,  external appearances, but also with the spiritual hungers of human communities that we serve.  Without authentic evangelization, participation in the liturgy is ultimately hollow– an aesthetic pastime or a momentary palliative; without the works of justice and charity, participation in the liturgy is ultimately deceptive, playing church rather than being church.

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