No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord (John 10:18)
On his ordination day, every priest makes his vows, and lays prostrate on the floor in humble submission. He promises obedience, chastity, and some also poverty. He literally and symbolically “lays down his life”, immolating Jesus.
And when he does, he becomes the bridge between the sinner and God.
In a very important book for our time, In Sinu Jesu, When Heart Speaks to Heart, Jesus speaks to the heart of an anonymous Benedictine monk while in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
Jesus tells the priest, “I give Myself in the Most Holy Eucharist as your living bridge into the presence of the Father. This too is the work of every priest of Mine: to throw himself across the great chasm that separates sinful man from the holiness of My Father. Thus does he replace Me-take My place and represent it- in every Mass as mediator and bridge.” In Sinu Jesu
It is a great mystery, why the Lord chooses to use weak human creatures to fulfill His plan. But while Jesus is the only mediator between us and God, Scripture clearly shows that He chooses His own mediators. From Abraham, Moses, the prophets, John the Baptist, to the Apostles, God shows that He chooses who He will to do His will. They become that connection between God and His people.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you. (John 20:21)
Jesus still chooses his mediators, the successors of the Apostles, his Bishops and priests. God’s call should be rightly discerned by the man and Church superiors. The priesthood is a sublime dignity that leaves an indelible mark on their souls.
The priest stands in the place of Jesus, “in persona Christi”, when he administers the sacraments to his people. The power entrusted to him is entirely supernatural. It comes from God. Whether he speaks words to absolve sins, or words that give us the Eucharist, Jesus acts through him. Jesus, submits to the actions of the priest administering those sacraments. What profound humility our God shows us!
Feed my sheep (John 21:17)
A Catholic priest is our spiritual father, a shepherd of souls. He is our protector from the wolves which seek to devour us. He is our guide to the Truth as God has revealed it. Through his consecrated hands his flock is given grace, healing, and is fed the Bread of Life. And his life is offered for one reason–to bring his flock safely home to Our Father in heaven.
Giving your life to save another is heroic, but giving your life to save another’s soul is infinitely more valorous. The effects of a priest’s continued faithful sacrifice (or lack of it) are eternal.
Crossing over into “Paradise”
“When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be stopped from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.” Joshua 3:13
We all remember Moses (“the mediator of God’s will”) parting the sea, so God’s people could cross over to safety. But during Joshua’s time, the “priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord” walked into the Jordan river. And under their feet the ground became dry “until all the nation finished passing”. The Scriptures are full of signs, parallels, and foreshadowing of God’s plan.
Another example is in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus, in a boat with the Apostles, (a ship is a symbol of the Church) crossed over the sea to heal the sick. But where Jesus and the Apostles were travelling to is another sign of His providence.
“And when they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret.” Mt 14:34
Genessaret, a city known for its fertile land and beauty, was called “The Paradise”.
Throughout Scripture, the Lord shows his priests how to be another Christ, helping wounded and sick souls safely cross over to Paradise. Indelibly marked, and bearing Our Lord, they are a living bridge to the Father.
Pray for our priests. May they all have the courage to throw themselves across the chasm.
(May the Father, Son and Holy Ghost be glorified in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary.)