Friday, 15 March 2013
The lifeblood of the Mystical Body of Christ
One day earlier this week I saw a mother about the baptism of her baby, a grieving family about the funeral of a fine father and grandfather, schoolchildren about singing the texts of the Mass, teenagers about their forthcoming Confirmation and then a couple to rehearse their marriage ceremony. Today I heard the confessions of some children in the school and later some children making their first Confession after our evening service of Rosary, Benediction and Novena. Tomorrow I will be celebrating a funeral and on Saturday a wedding.
All of these things bring joy to me as a priest. Baptisms and Weddings obviously, but also funerals because the rites of the Church enable us to overcome the world's attitude to death as meaningless, and in the sacrament of Penance we rejoice in the Lord's compassion and mercy. I have several funerals to celebrate in the next two weeks and it is most consoling if I have also given the Sacraments to the person during their time of dying so that Our Lord can consecrate this crucial time of their lives.
As a priest, the celebration of the Liturgy is not a chore but a joy. The "celebration" of The Meeting (one of which I have also had to travel to this week) does not bring such consolation except in the coffee break and the genuine chance to meet and interact with fellow workers in the vineyard of the Lord. On the other hand, teaching future priests about the sacraments is refreshing, even despite the sometimes gruelling journey round to the seminary on a Sunday night after celebrating three Masses and two baptisms.
This is really the heart of the priestly ministry. The Mass takes the first place of course: what could be more sublime than to pronounce the words of consecration, to lift the body of the Lord for the veneration of the people and then to feed on the Word who gives His flesh and blood, soul and divinity to us as spiritual food? Yet the other sacraments bring joy also to the priest because they are the great fountains of grace for the people that God wishes in His superabundant mercy to save from their sins, enrich by His grace and bring to heaven.
This is truly the work of the Church. From the grace given in the sacraments, all other works flow: the care of the poor and the homeless, the attempt to help those who are in turmoil because their marriage is on the rocks or their children are lapsing, the urge of good Christians to engage in public life to make the world a better place. It is Christ who is at the centre, Christ who gives us strength.
This is so for the lowly parish priest (who, as I can readily testify, does not necessarily seek any higher office) and for the highest ecclesiastic. May the Lord help us all to play the part that we should as members of the Mystical Body of Christ.