By Fr. Simon Dray
Today is my 2nd anniversary of becoming a priest.
We might ask, ‘what do you do as a priest?’, but in this 2nd year of priesthood there’s been a deeper appreciation that priesthood is less about ‘doing’ and more about ‘being’.
My diary’s still full, but a priest is meant to be an ‘alter Christus’ – ‘another Christ to the world’. Through the Priesthood, Christ the head continues to make himself present to his body, the Church.
The priest accompanies those carrying heavy crosses – people who do so with great humility and love despite their burdens. I initially thought, ‘at the very least I can pray and offer Mass for their intentions’.
Another priest corrected me, saying ‘no saying Mass is the most we can ever do because we are priests’. The Mass isn’t something that we (collectively) do. It remains Christ’s work of our redemption. He told us when he is ‘lifted up he will draw all men to himself’. In the Eucharist he does exactly that, so it’s the highest prayer we can offer for someone.
When the priest pronounces ‘this is my body… this is my blood’, they aren’t merely the words of the Institution Narrative, but of Consecration because it’s Christ, the Word of God who is speaking them!
In the same way, ‘Do this in memory of me’, means we aren’t re-enacting an ancient historical event, but are once again drawn into his saving passion, death and resurrection. God gives us back our life; one that endures for the eternal life.
Dying on a cross is humiliating and lonely. Those closest to Christ had betrayed, denied and deserted him. Only John, the beloved disciple, his Blessed Mother and the other women took station with him. In the Eucharist, Christ as God, finds a way never to be alone on the cross.
That’s why we go to Sunday Mass and why it matters if we choose to be absent because it means we’re missing from the foot of the cross – again! Coming to Mass makes us like the ‘beloved disciple’ and we stand by him as he gives his life as a ransom for many.
Only the fruit of the cross can sustain the Christian life as it gives us the grace to be faithful to Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life. Bishop Richard, at Festival 50, said, ‘we need priests, for unless our communities have at their centre the celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass, they will not be Catholic communities in the true sense’.
We must get real! If we want priests we can’t sit around waiting for the bishop to send us one. Indeed, it’s the other way round – we must send, from this community, our sons, brothers and nephews so he can ordain them!
Priestly vocations come from practising Catholic families. Pray that tonight we go home and make the Eucharist and Priesthood a priority for our family discussions and prayer.
Pray for priests. Pray for this priest, and for all Catholic priests all around the world.