Holy Thursday, what a day. We heard this past weekend on Palm Sunday the Institution Narrative (the specific words Jesus used when breaking the bread and sharing the wine which we still use at Mass today for the consecration – the bread and wine becoming literally Jesus’ Body and Blood) from the Gospel of Matthew. Today, while it is the liturgically same moment, we read from John’s Gospel. We don’t actually hear an Institution Narrative on Holy Thursday, though any well formed second grader preparing to receive their First Communion will quickly tell you that Holy Thursday is when Jesus gave us the Eucharist. The Church instead, chooses to highlight the Gospel of John which is the only Gospel containing the washing of the disciples’ feet.
This Gospel passage is one of the critical pillars for the formation of the Sacrament of Holy Orders as a sacrament of service. Jesus is modeling for His disciples what it means to be a true leader, it means to serve. Today, we talk about the model of the servant-leader, someone who puts the needs of those who follow them before their own. This is rooted in Jesus’ model of leadership.
Because this reading highlights the roles and duties of ordained priests, I thought it would be a good time to expand upon that to encompass the priesthood we all take part in by virtue of our baptism. The video for today considers how each one of us, no matter what profession or life situation God has called us to, also has a priestly role to play in our corner of the world. Whole college and graduate level courses could be spent on this topic, so I hope you’ll forgive me another 9 minute video for today.
In this space, I wanted to write out for you the quotes I read in the video in full, as well as a few others that I feel support the idea that each of us is called to a priestly ministry. That’s really what this whole blog is all about, taking the everyday ordinary moments of our day and recognizing in them God’s calling to holiness. Each action, each conversation, each moment (however brief) of silence, is an opportunity to do God’s Will and take a step further in our journey of faith. When we come to the Mass, all these little moments can be united with the bread and wine offered by the community on the altar. Together, the bread, wine, and our very selves, are transformed into Christ. We become what we eat, we are transformed into Christ’s Body here on this present earth.
Hence the laity, dedicated as they are to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, ar marvelously called and prepared so that even richer fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit – indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born – all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives. (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 901)
In each celebration of the Eucharist, there are two such invocations of the Holy Spirit [the epiclesis] that are at the heart of the divine action of the sacrament. In the name of the gathered assembly, the presider invokes the Spirit to act so that their offers of bread and wine may become the Body and Blood of Christ (the first epiclesis). Then, after the institution narrative, the presider prays that the Spirit may make of this who eat this brea and wine “one body, one Spirit in Christ” (the second epiclesis). Sent by the Father who hears the church’s prayer of invocation, the Spirit gives new life to those who celebrate the sacraments of Christ. So, in their turn, Christians become sacramental realities-living signs of God alive in human flesh through the synergy of the church’s prayer and of the Spirit’s anointing.
In this context, it is not an exaggeration to say that these two invocations bring about two transubstantiations: the first is the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ; the second is the transformation of the believers into the Mystical Body of Christ (Philibert, pg 48-49).
Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:2-4; 9)
The eyes of faith behold a wonderful scene: that of a countless number of lay people, both women and men, busy at work in their daily life and activity, oftentimes far from view and quite unclaimed by the world, unknown to the world’s great personages but nonetheless looked upon in love by the Father, untiring laborers who work in the Lord’s vineyard. Confident and steadfast through the power of God’s grace, these are the humble yet great builders of the kingdom of God in history (Pope John Paul II, The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, no. 17)