Summary: The touch of God changes us, particularly those set aside for ministry.

February 16, 2009

Sacramentum Caritatis

There are two realities that flow directly from our understanding that there is a God and I’m not God. The first is that we owe God everything. The second is that we have to behave toward God and other human beings in the way He intends. The new atheist, like the old atheist, realizes both of those realities, and so he denies that there is a God. Cain, until the moment God confronted him with the evil he had done to his brother, was a practical atheist. He acted as if he himself was in control, a “god” like the serpent had promised his parents. But even after that supreme act of denial, that supreme act of family destruction, God showed His divine love by touching him, by marking him, not for destruction, but for life.

The Holy Father, in his discourse on the Eucharist, reminds us that the institution of the summit sacrament and the priesthood of the New Covenant occurred at the same time. Jesus is the priest, victim and altar of sacrifice. No one can say “this is my body” and “this is the cup of my blood” except in the name and in the person of Christ, the one high priest of the new and eternal Covenant. At Mass, the Bishop or priest presides in persona Christi capitis, “in the person of Christ the Head.” The priest in a new and mysterious way assumes the office of Christ, head of the Church. This is the theological reason why the Church instructs the priest to proclaim “the mystery of faith,” but not to join in the Eucharistic Acclamation: Lord by your cross and resurrection you have set us free. For the same reason, the priest proclaims the doxology at the end of the Canon, but does not join us when we sing–as the body of Christ–Amen.

The Holy Father continues by reminding priests to be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in first place, but Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the center of the liturgical action. That explains why the Vatican Council was insistent that nobody, not even a priest, can change the words or actions of the Liturgy. They are the words and actions of Jesus Christ. The priest is above all a servant of others, and he must continually work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord’s hands. He mus avoid anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality. Let’s pray for our priests, especially those of our parish, to be ever more effective signs of the presence of Christ and his abiding love.

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