June 10, 2012
1st Reading: Ex 24:3-8, 39-40; 2nd Reading: Heb 9:11-15; Gospel: Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
The Priest, the Eucharist, and the Church
The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, “What can we do in this Church? There is no Mass; Our Lord is not longer there: we may as well pray at home.” When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.
-Saint John-Mary Vianney, May 8, 1786- August 4, 1859
This quote from St. John Vianney is as relevant today as it was in the 1850′s. You may be wondering why I decided to use it. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney (Cure of Ars) his Holiness, Benedict XVI, announced a special “Year for Priests” from June 19, 2009 to June 19, 2010. The Pope also declared St. John-MaryVianney the Patron of All Priests in the World. Friday, June 15th, is the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and is designated as “World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests.” Let us remember to pray for our priests.
Why are we talking about priests and the priesthood on the Feast of Corpus Christi? What is the connection between the priesthood and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ? Historically speaking, Jesus called the twelve apostles out of the numerous people following him. He trained them publically and privately for a period of three years. He ordained them on Holy Thursday and entrusted to them his body and blood and asked them, “Take and eat, take and drink…do this in remembrance of me.” (cf Lk 22:19) The apostles later founded the Church after they were kicked out of the Temple. And through all the persecutions, the Church was sustained with doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers (cf Acts 2:42). So it logically follows that the apostles came first, then the Eucharist, then the Church. Obviously, therefore, without the apostles (priests and bishops) there is no Eucharist, and without the Eucharist there is no Church. How important is the Eucharist? And how important is the priesthood to the Church? Let’s see.
The Eucharist is the sacrament that contains the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ through the appearance of bread and wine. The Eucharist is the most noble and most important of all the sacraments in the Church. Although Christ is present in his Words (in the Gospel), at prayer, and in religious symbols and rituals, he is most present in the Eucharist. In other words, the Eucharist is the Real and Actual Jesus. Without Jesus there is no Church and the one who is invested with the power to bring Jesus about through Consecration, is the priest. Thus, by hypothetical syllogism we can conclude that “without the priest, there is no Church.” As we celebrate the Feast (Solemnity) of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we are also celebrating the priesthood. What challenge does that give us?
First, it reminds us of our identity as a Eucharistic people. Second, it challenges us to pray for more vocations to the priesthood. The priest is the one who leads us in the battle against principalities and powers of darkness. The constant attack we observe on the priesthood and the attempt, even by some Catholics, to reduce the relevance, the significance, and importance of the ministerial priesthood in the Church is the work of the Devil. Some of us are so quick to condemn our priests and look for what is wrong with them all the time. The more we do this, the more we are discouraging vocations. Unfortunately, we are so blind to that reality
Another thing to observe is how some modern day Catholics are so sophisticated that they have removed the Tabernacle from the Church so that Christ is no longer the center of worship. They put him behind, in a separate chapel, where nobody can see him. And all we are left with is “ego” worship then it becomes “all about us.” And of course, Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction are already forgotten in some of our parishes. The only thing they have not done is to change their name from “catholic” to something else.
At this juncture it is also necessary to send words of appreciation to all those who appreciate the ministerial priesthood and are promoting vocations to it. We thank those who see Christ in their priests and give all necessary support and encouragement to help them fulfill their ministerial duties. Thanks to those who have been supporting us spiritually, morally, and materially. Thanks also to those who are promoting Eucharistic Adoration everywhere.
May the Lord give us the grace to appreciate the gift of the Holy Eucharist in our time.
Fr. Clem Oyafemi