Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday and Christ's Priesthood

The mystery of the Incarnation was necessary for God the Son to be the eternal high Priest, the one Mediator between God and man. As the priest “can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward since he himself is beset with weakness,” Christ, in assuming human nature, stands in solidarity with the sufferings of humanity. Truly, Christ is the Compassionate One and being so, he is truly human for “the essential element of our being human is being compassionate, suffering with others: this is true humanity.” (Benedict XVI, Lectio Divina with the Priests of Rome, 18 February 2010). Many people think that sinfulness is the true mark of the human person. But the Holy Father thinks otherwise: “sin is never solidarity but always tears solidarity apart, it is living for oneself instead of giving it. True humanity is real participation in the suffering of human beings. It means being a compassionate person…being at the core of human passion, really bearing with others the burden of their sufferings…”

Christ the compassionate one, entered into the mystery of human wretchedness. While keeping an intimate conversation with his Father, he bore in himself the entirety of human suffering. He suffered with those who seemed like sheep without a shepherd. Thus, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears…” (Hebrews 5:7) A number of times he wept. At the tomb of Lazarus, he was moved inwardly by the mystery and terror of death and so he wept. Seeing the future destruction of Jerusalem on account of its disobedience, Jesus weeps for all the destructions in human history – “seeing that people destroy themselves and their cities with violence and disobedience.” Jesus weeps with loud cries. Upon the Cross he cried out: “My God, my God why have you abandoned me?” (Mk. 15:34) He cried again at the end. This cry is the cry of suffering humanity which Jesus bears and brings within the hearing of God: “I cried aloud to God, cried aloud to God that he may hear me.” “In this way (Jesus) brings about the priesthood, the function of mediator”: he bears in himself, takes on in himself, the sufferings and passion of the world. He transforms it into a cry to God and brings it before the eyes and into the hands of God. Thus, he brings the cry of suffering humanity to the moment of redemption.

In fact, the letter was very clear: “He OFFERED up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears…” In a truly priestly act, He offers to God the cries of suffering humanity. “This is the fulfillment of his priesthood, thus he brings humanity to God. In this way he becomes mediator, he becomes priest.” Jesus “offered himself and made this offering…with the very same compassion that transforms the suffering of the world into prayer and into a cry to the Father.”

It is in this light that priest, like Christ, must bring into the Mass and put into the hands of Christ all of his compassion to the sufferings of the world. The priest “must learn to accept more profoundly the sufferings of the pastoral life” for here is where mediation takes place. In his sufferings, he enters into the mystery of Christ. In his toils and labors for the good of souls, the priest is able to imitate our Lord in entering the mystery of human wretchedness. The priest carries it with him, visits those who are suffering and looks after them, takes upon himself the “passion” of his time, of his parish, of the people entrusted to his care. His compassion to the suffering of this world becomes a priestly act. He puts them all into the hands of Christ the High Priest who in turn, lifts it up to the Father in his one perfect sacrifice.

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