Reflections on Lumen Gentium, Part 10

10. Christ the Lord, High Priest taken from among men,(100) made the new people “a kingdom and priests to God the Father”.(101) The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.(102) Therefore all the disciples of Christ, persevering in prayer and praising God,(103) should present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.(104) Everywhere on earth they must bear witness to Christ and give an answer to those who seek an account of that hope of eternal life which is in them.(105)

Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ.(2*) The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people. But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist.(3*) They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.

100 Cf. Heb. 5:1-5.

101 Cf Rev. 6:1; cf. 5:9-10

102 Cf. 1 Pt.2:4-10.

103 Cf. Acts 2:42-47.

104 Cf. Rom. 12:1.

105 Cf 1 Pt. 3:15

(2) Cfr. Pius XII, Alloc. Magnificate Dominum, 2 nov. 1954: AAS 46 (1954) p. 669. Litt. Encycl. Mediator Dei, 20 nov. 1947: AAS 39 (1947) p. 555.

(3) Cfr. Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Miserentissimus Redemptor, 8 maii 1928: AAS 20 (1928) p. 171 s. Pius XII Alloc. Vous nous avez, 22 sept. 1956: AAS 48 (1956) p. 714.

 

This is a marvelous paragraph in which the Council Fathers discuss the priesthood of all believers. Christ, our High Priest, has called us to and created us to be “a kingdom of priests to God the Father” (Rev. 6:1; cf. 5:9-10). By virtue of our Baptism and our anointing in the Holy Spirit we have become “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart” (1 Peter 2:9). We are priests! Now, the job of a priest is to offer sacrifice. What are the sacrifices we offer? The Council Fathers say it is “all those works which are those of the Christian.” Catholics have in our tradition the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

The Corporal Works of Mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, ransom the captive, bury the dead.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish the sinner, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead.

The faithful fulfill our priestly ministry by offering these Works of Mercy, these Christian works, for the sake of the salvation of the world. We unite our work with that of Christ, our High Priest, and in this way, while persevering in prayer and praise, become a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Our Works of Mercy rise up to Him like the incense of the altar, while they present to others a loving testimony to Christ and to the joy that lives within us.

Likewise, we faithful fulfill our priestly duty by our participation in the Eucharist. The priesthood of all believers and the ministerial priesthood are both expressions of and a participation in the Priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priesthood makes present the sacrifice of Christ on the altar of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, while we lay faithful assist at Mass and participate in the sacrifice of Christ by our active and attentive participation at Mass and our worthy reception of the Blessed Sacrament. What a wonderful expression: to assist at Mass! Yet, that’s exactly what we do. We, in the parts of the Liturgy that are proper to the lay faithful, assist the priest in his priestly ministry and participate in the sacrifice of Christ that the priest, the alter Christus, has made present before us. This Eucharist, then, nourishes us to exercise our royal priesthood by participation in the sacramental life of the Church, by a life of prayer for others and thanksgiving to God, and by living faithfully the life of Christ by sacrifices of “self-denial and active charity” — the Works of Mercy.

In recent decades, the “universal call to holiness” has been emphasized by many pastors in the Church, and for good reason. We are all called to holiness, not only priests and religious. I suggest a renewed emphasis on the priesthood of all believers is equally appropriate and in need, for too many of the faithful lack an adequate understanding of how we all share in the priesthood of Christ and have a responsibility to live the Gospel in such a way that is a genuine witness to Christ, and to be prepared to “give an answer to those who seek an account of that hope of eternal life” within us.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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