Immersed in Christ: May 12, 2020
Tuesday, Week Five of Easter
The Responsorial (Psalm 145) reminds us what we are by Baptism and what we are called and consecrated to do: “Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.”
Acts 14: 19-28 shows us the pattern of early evangelization: 1. Inspired by the Holy Spirit “while they were worshiping the Lord and fasting,” the whole Christian community “laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas and sent them off.” 2. Those sent preached and made converts. 3. In each of the churches before they left they “appointed presbyters (elders”) for them, and, with prayer and fasting, entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.” This was to assure the continuance of the new communities. 4. On their return, those sent “called the church together and gave an account of what God had done with them.”
The word “elders” is the correct word for those we call priests. Grammatically, the word “priest” comes from presbyteros (elder) in Greek, which became prêtre in French and Priester in German. But through mistaken usage, the meaning actually changed to what the Latin sacerdos designates: a “sacred” person (sacer) ordained to perform sacred acts. Compare this to the Greek hieros, meaning “priest” or “keeper of the sacred,” from which “hierarchy” comes.
The bishops at the second Vatican Council (1962-1965) attempted to restore the authentic terminology. They tried to reserve the word “priest” (in Latin sacerdos) for Jesus alone and for all who became “priests in the Priest” by “becoming Christ” at Baptism. For ordained clergy they used the word presbyter. But the translators defeated their purpose by carelessly translating both words as “priest” in English. 1
As a result, most Catholics have no understanding of their baptismal anointing as “priests.” When we say during the Presentation of Gifts, to the “elder” presiding at Mass, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands…” we are not thinking of ourselves as priests offering the sacrifice equally with the presider. We think of him as the priest, of him as offering the sacrifice, and of ourselves as the community he is doing it for more than with. Progress has been made in correcting this error, but not yet enough.
In John 14: 27-31, Jesus showed us the way to peace is surrender: “My peace I give to you…. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid… I love the Father… and I am doing exactly what the Father told me,” We send ourselves up under the form of bread to be placed on the altar in an act of surrendering our bodies, minds, hearts and lives to be joined to Christ and offered with him. We abandon ourselves to the Father’s will, both in life and in death. There is no greater security, no greater peace. “Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.”
Initiative: Find yourself by losing yourself in the Presentation of Gifts.
1 See Hebrews, chapters 7-10, and Patrick Dunne, now Bishop of Auckland, New Zealand: Priesthood: A Re-examination of the Roman Catholic Theology of the Presbyterate, Alba House, 1990, p. 110. View Today's Readings Here