Step Four - Be a Priest

Jesus changed our whole image of what we should be and how we should act when he gave us his "new commandment." When he said, "Love one another just as I have loved you," he altered the terms of our existence.

 

Isn’t it true that we start off taking responsibility first for ourselves, and only after that for others? Babies, for example, are 100% focused on their own needs and desires. But we don’t blame them for that, because a baby’s only task is to survive. As we mature we learn thoughtfulness and generosity, but we still look first to our own needs — especially on the level of survival — before we go out to take care of others. Exceptions to this are saints and heroes. For most of us, concern for others is an add-on.

 

God seems to have been taking this for granted when he gave the commandment which Jesus quotes earlier in the Gospel: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (see Matthew 19:19;22:39). John Paul II interprets this as a teaching on "the duty to love oneself no less than others." And he offers it as "the basis of a true right to self-defense." John Paul goes on to say, however, that one can give up the right to self-defense "in virtue of a heroic love which deepens and transfigures the love of self into a radical self-offering, according to the spirit of the Gospel Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:38-40). The sublime example of this self-offering is the Lord Jesus himself" (Gospel of Life, no. 55).

 

Obviously, now that Jesus has made it his "new commandment" that we are to love one another as he has loved us, we no longer have the option to love in any other way except "according to the spirit of the Gospel Beatitudes" and "the sublime example of... the Lord Jesus himself." We gave up the right to kill in self-defense when we became the "Lamb of God" through Baptism (see John Paul II, The Splendor of Truth, no. 21).


On a daily basis, we love others as Christ has loved us by seeing our lives on this earth as given to us for the purpose of serving others. This is the way Jesus came to earth, was born and lived, entirely and solely to express the love of God on earth by serving others. This reverses the priorities. Christians see life, not as something to hug tight and save, but as something to be used and given up for others in loving service (Mt. 16:25). And the greatest love of all is to "lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13). Obviously, if the greatest love is to give up life itself for others, we should find our daily experience of love in acts of giving up for others those things that are important to us in life: possessions, time, social position and prestige, power, even health. It is in losing our lives that we find life. And every time we give up anything in love for others, we hear our Lord’s voice in the background saying, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over... for the measure you give will be the measure you get back" (Lk. 6:38) — both in this life and the next!


Baptism consecrated us to this by making us "priests in the Priest." As sharers in the unique priesthood of Jesus Christ we are committed to mediate the life of God to others by giving expression to our faith, our hope, our love, in physical, human, life-giving ways. As priests we are missioned, as Jesus was, to express the truth, the love of God to others, and to let our bodies be the medium of this expression as his was. When the invisible word of truth in our minds becomes an audible word on our lips, this human action communicates faith to others. Love expressed in physical actions becomes love received. Love received is healing and life-giving; it arouses love and communicates grace. But to express ourselves is risky. It is exposure; it is vulnerability. When we do accept the "ministry of self-expression," we begin to give and to lose ourselves in love — our flesh for the life of the world. This is Christian love.

 

QUESTIONS

 

  • How do you "serve" others? At home? At work or school? In your neighborhood? Do you think of this as being "priest"? As "humbling" yourself?

 

  • When do you "give flesh" to the invisible life of God in you — your faith, your hope, your love — through words and actions? When you do, do you think of yourself as communicating God’s divine life to others?W

 

  • Do you feel afraid or hesitant to express your faith to others? To show enthusiasm at Mass? To express admiration or affection for others? Why?

 

  • Does it help you to know that Christ is expressing himself through your body when you give physical expression to your faith, your love? How could you begin to let him do this more often?

 

 

PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONSTry some of these to get started.

 

  • Introduce yourself to someone at Mass whom you see all the time and don’t know.

 

  • Sing at Mass.

 

  • Arrange your office so that people coming to see you feel welcome and invited. Have an extra chair for them.

 

  • Put a candy dish near your desk.

 

  • Eat lunch with someone who normally eats alone.

 

  • Welcome back someone who has been out sick.

 

  • Let someone "in" when traffic is heavy.

 

  • When you see a news report about something bad, ask yourself how you could have mediated God in that situation.

 

  • Plant a flower bed and let the neighborhood kids take a flower to their parents or to someone special.

 

  • If you get really mad at someone, do something nice for someone else.

 

  • When you go to a wedding, dance at the reception to celebrate with the bride and groom.

 

  • Write a letter to someone you know is lonely.


SUPPORT MATERIALS

Fr. Knight's Books about Ministry, avaliable through the Book Store, include:

 

  • His Way: Chapters Seven to Nine: Forming a Community of faith

  • Reaching Jesus: Step Four: The Choice to be a Priest

  • The Five Promises of Baptism: “The Fourth Promise: Posterity”

  • Five Steps to the Father: “Phrase, Phase Four: Thy Will be Done Surrender

  • Nuts and Bolts of Daily Spirituality, Chapter Five: “Everyone You Meet”

  • Living the Sacraments: Chapters Eight to Ten: Matrimony and Holy Orders: the Sacraments of Community

  • Experiencing the Mass: The Fourth Moment of Mystery: “The Eucharistic Prayer”

  • A Fresh Look at Confession: Chapter Four: “The Sacrament of the Flesh”

  • Mary in an Adult Church: Chapters Four and Five: “Ever” and “Full of Grace”

  • No Power but Love (from the Series on Matthew’s Gospel: whole book

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