As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. (Galatians 4:6-7)
The above Scripture passage beautifully confirms the unimaginable dignity of the children of God. But what does it mean to be an heir? We know that we are not called to be passive heirs to the kingdom, or worse, spoiled children always asking for more but never passing on what we receive. No, we are called to be active workers, wise stewards in the vineyard of the Lord. By virtue of our baptism and confirmation, lay Catholics are anointed to share in Christ’s work as “Priest, Prophet and King”. It is our right to exercise this office as laity and more than that, it is our duty. I wish to take the next three articles to explore each of these “offices of the laity” in greater depth, especially as they relate to our life in the BSP*.
In the Old Testament the priest was the one to offer sacrifices in reparation to the Almighty God and for the forgiveness of the many sins of humankind. However, these sacrifices were not adequate to merit what was needed for the salvation of God’s people. It was not until the perfect Sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ was offered, that the sins of the world were washed away.
As heirs with Christ, in the office of priest, we too are privileged to participate in the perfection of that offering. Does God need our sacrifices? Not at all, but he desires our participation, and because he confers on us this honor, we must willingly take up our cross and follow him, as our Lord tells us in Matthew 15:24. How beautiful that the Lord gave this Scripture passage to St. Francis as one of three on which to base his Rules of Life! It speaks very clearly to the priestly office to which we are called.
What must we do to exercise this office? The Catechism is eloquent in its description of this office:
“For all their works, prayers, and apostolic undertakings, family and married life, daily work, relaxation of mind and body, if they are accomplished in the Spirit – indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born – all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist these may most fittingly be offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. And so, worshipping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives.” (CCC 901)
Our participation in the priestly office of Christ is what sanctifies and gives meaning to every act of our lives. We understand that the sanctification of our daily lives flows from our offering them to God in the Spirit, and in uniting these acts to the sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist.
The sin of the world demands that reparation be made. If we relied on our merit alone, our sacrifices would be as ineffectual as the Old Testament offerings of rams, cattle and turtledoves. But our meager offerings, linked to the Cross and offered in the Spirit, give us great hope that God will use them for the salvation of the world. In this way we are able to fulfill the Holy Father’s exhortation in his recent document “Spe Salvi”:
“As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: How can I save myself? We should also ask: What can I do in order that others may be saved?”
I recently heard a veteran newscaster say that in 40 years of reporting on world events, he had never seen such a conglomeration of dire events, both man-made and natural, occurring in so short a period of time. This confirms what Our Lady has been warning us about for more than a century. The universal call to penance and the formation of the BSP at this time is no coincidence. It is necessary for our time. What the Lord will do with our offerings is not ours to know. We have a job to do and the merit and glory are God’s alone. Let us keep in mind the words of our Lord in Luke 17:10: “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'”
Let us embrace this priestly office with renewed fervor for the sake of God’s Kingdom, through Jesus the Lord and the intercession of Mary, Mother of God. Amen.
(*Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis – http://www.bspenance.org)