Do you remember the Pilgrimage of Prayer? In the last week, I have “stopped, looked, and listened.” It is beautiful when you and I can share with one other the fruits of our contemplation, the fruits and thoughts of our prayer. The Order of Preachers (nicknamed the Dominicans) uses that phrase to describe their vocation, “to contemplate and share with others the fruits of our contemplation.” The following isn’t terribly scriptural, but a sharing of thoughts and prayers. I hope it can draw us into the mystery of the priesthood and crucifixion- the man who is priest and victim for the people. I hope it can relate the evangelical counsels to us too.
Each part of the priesthood is signified by different parts of the Passion. The evangelical counsels have a significant role in the priesthood too- just as they did in the life of Christ. Poverty, chastity, and obedience are the three evangelical counsels. Us the laity are not called to live the virtue of chastity in celibacy (unless we are forever single or consecrated virgin), but we are called to live it out, since purity is for everyone, and since Jesus says blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. This purity is more than sexual; it is also emotional and mental, it is wholesome.
Think about it: does God only ask my body to be pure? If that is the case, I am not a whole person who has body and soul. We know that is not true. I have a mind, body, soul, heart. It follows, therefore, to understand and practice purity of my whole person, the whole person whom God loves and desires. Think of the contrast: if God only asks purity of body, I can lust all I want. No one sees it and it’s not physical, is it? Remember Jesus again, “everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Again, this purity that the blessed see, “they shall see God,” this is a wholesome purity.
The agony in the Garden is Obedience. Read John 17, the high priestly prayer of Jesus. He pleads for unity among his apostles and disciples, and for the joy of knowing the greater good and eternal beauty. The priest today does the same. He is also obedient to the bishop, to do not his will but the one of whom sent him. Sound familiar? Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22 give accounts of the Agony. Consider his plea and look with wonder on his obedience to God our Father.
The scourging at the pillar is Poverty. “I will give you even my back.” “I do not withhold myself.” Most of us have trouble giving ten dollars to someone we see after daily Mass. Consider Jesus, he became poor for us in every way. This poverty is gruesome and ugly to us… and what riches did it merit us? The priest is called to do the same. Does your pastor get along with everyone? The short answer is, likely not. Our priests give themselves to us in ways we don’t see. We may see them in the Sacraments and in Ministry, but where else are they? They mediate for us and God; they sanctify and consecrate our own sacrifice and gifts.
The crowning of thorns is Chastity. What? King, who do you crown? Your wife, the queen, and vice versa. The word mocked (and mocks) him for who he is, Holy and Pure, God and Man. He proclaims by his life the virtue of Chastity (and celibacy in this case). The world recognizes how much he doesn’t “fit in.” Even though he took part in creation, the world did not know him; his own people did not receive him. Purity is beautiful! If you don’t understand St. John of the Cross in his writings, understand this: St. John is teaching you to be pure and holy as the bride is for the Bridegroom who is Jesus! How else is marriage consummated? In sin, or in purity? How do we live in heaven, in sin, or in purity? How else will “the pagans,” and the atheists and everyone on earth believe? Will it be because of our grave sin? No, they will see us the disciples of Jesus as contradictions in the world… yet completely true and joyful and rich in this unseen thing we call God (2 Cor. 6). Chastity. The priest models this virtue for us in celibacy. He is crowned with thorns as a sign of the worthiness of this virtue.
The words of Consecration in the Mass can be likened to the Crucifixion. This gift of self is total, whole, and complete. This sacrifice, his wounds, are what we enter into in Communion (and his Resurrection). The priest gives of himself by giving us Jesus in this and all the Sacraments.
How will you participate in the salvation of the world? How will you give of yourself for the sanctification of your friends, family, and enemies? It is a worthwhile life when it is lived in and with God.