On our common priesthood
While attending the ordination of our six new priests I was reflecting on something I learned in a theology class years ago. We were told that we are all baptized into Jesus’ offices of priest, prophet, and king. Sometimes this is called the baptismal priesthood. But what exactly is this? After all, we do not wear vestments and offer Mass or other sacraments.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way: “The whole Church is a priestly people. Through Baptism, all the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ. This participation is called the ‘common priesthood of the faithful’ ” (CCC 1591).
How do we act out this priesthood? The Catechism also explains this, saying that “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” (CCC 901).
Basically, what this is saying is that when we live our daily life “in the Spirit,” we are helping to bring Jesus to the world. This implies intentionality. We do not stumble into living our daily tasks filled with the Spirit. We need to offer our day to the Lord in the morning and pray for all the people we will meet with through work and school and family life. We need to take time to pray and spend time with God each day.
The last part of the quote above says, “Indeed even the hardships of life if patiently born — all these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” This means that even our difficult times, our sufferings, our crying babies at 3 a.m., our 12-page term papers, our overtime work, our illnesses, and on and on, when we connect them to the Holy Spirit, they are a way to live out our Baptism.
What we are trying to accomplish through all of these endeavors is to be a bridge between God and humanity. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and when we intentionally live our life with this in mind, we bring God everywhere we go.
This all starts with our own devotion in prayer, Mass, and the sacraments. Through these we develop our relationship with God that we then can share with others. Through these spiritual practices we also discover our purpose and how we are to carry it out. Connection to Jesus is key for the common priesthood to be alive within us.
The common priesthood of the baptized is vital. The world needs good and joyous witnesses of what it is like to live for Jesus. There’s a lot of division, disunity, despair, and debauchery everywhere we go, and Jesus is the elixir for all of these plagues. When we worship by our holy actions, we consecrate the world itself to God, offering worship by the holiness of our lives (CCC 901).
We achieve the power for these actions through Mass and the sacraments, thus our common priesthood needs the ordained priesthood. The Catechism puts it this way: “The ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads His Church” (CCC 1547).
Jesus is the high priest, and through Holy Orders He brings about the ministerial priesthood that brings the grace of Jesus, through the sacraments, to the lay faithful as we strive to live out our baptismal priesthood.
So, let us strive to live out the call that continues to resound from the waters of Baptism to sanctify the world through word and deed.