Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 18, 2009
Christ's priesthood is ours
Dominican theologian says the laity's spiritual mission is to be holy, live fruitful lives
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Fr. Paul Philibert says the only sacrifice that matters to Jesus is our hearts.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON – Feeling like a priest today? According to Father Paul Philibert, we all share in Jesus’ priesthood and, as such, our role is to become “a vehicle of good news and grace for the world around us.”
“Christ’s priesthood is ours by virtue of our Baptism, which is the matrix of Christian life,” Philibert says. “Those who follow Christ on his paschal journey become God’s people and are a visible sign of God’s power among humanity.”
Philibert, a Dominican priest and theologian who teaches at St. John University in Collegeville, Minn., is a well-known speaker on the laity and their role in the Church.
He gave three lectures on the theme Christ’s Priesthood and Ours at St. Michael Resurrection Church May 8-9. The lectures were a part of the celebration of Father Roger Keeler’s 25 years of priesthood.
ONLY ONE PRIEST
There is only one priest in the new covenant and Christ is that unique priest, explained Philibert.
“Our share in his offering, as members of his mystical body, is called the priesthood of the faithful.”
Having been incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the faithful share in Christ’s priestly, prophetic and royal office and therefore are called to play their own part in the Church and in the world.
Throughout the ages and from the time of the call of Abraham until the birth of Jesus, God was calling a people to himself.
In their sinfulness, people failed to understand God’s call and became idolaters, offering religious sacrifices of animals in order to appease God.
“But he kept calling them and ultimately God solved the problem by giving us his own Son who is both human and divine and becomes what he always looked for — humanity able to manifest God’s true spirit and a humanity perfectly willing to give itself to God,” Philibert said in an interview.
Christ’s death on the cross was a “perfect sacrifice” that fulfilled all others. “From then on the meaning of priesthood changes,” Philibert explained.
“The priesthood in the Old Covenant is the offering of substitution sacrifices — bulls and goats — whereas with Jesus the only sacrifice that matters is the offering of our hearts.”
Jesus’ death on the cross was “a perfect, complete self-offering and that’s what God was looking for,” continued the Dominican. “He is looking for hearts completely given to him.
“The cross is the sign of Jesus’ total, complete self-offering to the Father. Because we are baptized into Christ, we are one with him in that offering. All the baptized are baptized into Christ’s priesthood.”
What God wants of us is not purity but integrity, Philibert said. “What God is looking for essentially is a humanity that will live in such a way that they would be a sacrament of God’s own mercy and compassion.”
In the interview, Philibert said most of the laity has no idea of their share in the priesthood of Christ.
“They have no idea that they are the closest link between the Church and the society in which they live and that all the ministry of the Church is fundamentally to awaken the Body of Christ — meaning the faithful to their spiritual and apostolic mission.
“Their spiritual mission to be holy — that is, to realize that everything they have they can offer to God and their apostolic mission is to speak in the name of the Church in society.”
Like Christ, “we are called to offer everything that is ordinary to God out of love,” Philibert said.
But Christ offered it all. “We do too, to the degree that our state of life asks that of us,” he continued.
WHAT IS EXPECTED
“For example, there were many people who gave their lives as martyrs for the Church. If that is asked of us, we are expected to do that.
“But what is asked of most of us is to live fruitful lives faithful to one another, faithful to the community and to offer that joyfully to God.”