Homily, May 11th, 2016
The Priest: consecrated in the truth
While we are still celebrating the ascension of the Lord and we are preparing to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in the feast of Pentecost, today’s readings invite us to contemplate the great mystery of the ministerial priesthood that Jesus, in the Last Supper before his passion, bestowed upon his apostles. Two words are at the core of these readings: consecration/sanctification and mission.
In this regard, I would like to recall that the II Vatican Council based its teaching of the ministerial priesthood on the concept of "consecration and mission" which the Lord Jesus claims for himself according to the Gospel of John (cf. LG 28; PO 2).
Pope Benedict XVI reading this passage of today’s Gospel, says: “we may recognize in these words of John’s Gospel the institution of the priesthood of the Apostles, the institution of the New Testament priesthood” (Jesus of Nazareth II, 90). Before considering how He explains this fundamental Christological moment, it is good to remember that this passage belongs to Jesus’ farewell prayer. Because Jesus is in perfect and intimate communion with his Father, he can be with his disciples as the priest who intercedes for them.
Benedict XVI explains his conclusion considering first the sanctification of Jesus by the Father. The Father consecrated his Son in his Incarnation sending him into the world. It expresses that in Jesus there is consecration and mission. That is, his fully belonging to the Father and his entire existence “for all”, are perfectly linked.
This consecration by the Father has its achievement by the consecration of Jesus himself on the Passion as a sacrifice. In this way, if the Father consecrated his Son as a priest in his Incarnation sending him into the world, Jesus fulfilled his priestly consecration by the Father with his own sacrifice on the Cross.
Therefore, the consecration of the disciples is tied to the consecration of Jesus Christ. In order words, it is a sort of participation in his state of sanctification: “I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth” (Jn 17:19). Then, when Jesus prays: “Sanctify them in the truth” (Jn 17:17), it is ultimately Christ himself, He is the force of sanctification. This consecration has profound implications in the life of the disciples: “They must be immersed in him; they must, so to speak, be ‘newly robed’ in him, and thus they come to share in his consecration, in his priestly commission, in his sacrifice”. (Jesus of Nazareth II, 90)
This explanation helps us to understand that our priestly consecration is not something exterior to us. The priest is not consecrated in order to accomplish a play such as a piece of drama. The priest is not an actor who acts to become Christ. Our consecration as a priest takes place through union of will and union of being with Christ. Therefore, sharing in Jesus’ priestly being and mission is the profound meaning of being consecrated in the truth.
In some way, Saint Paul gives us a wonderful example of what it is meant to “sanctify in the truth” in his discourse of farewell to the elders of the Church of Ephesus.
Paul’s first sentence of today’s reading is so powerful: “Keep watch over yourselves and over the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son”.
Paul, first of all, recalls the presbyters of Ephesus the Trinitarian mystery of the Church. The Church belongs to God the Father. He obtained it with the price of the blood of his Son. And they have been consecrated by the Holy Spirit as presbyters, as responsible shepherds to watch over the flock given to them. Therefore, the people belong to God, they are not their own private property.
In the second sentence Paul points to the centrality of the Word of God in the life of the Church and the priest’s responsibility in this regard: “Therefore be alert, […] I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified”.
Saint Paul recommends the elders let the Word of God be the centre of their life for their own and for the community’s sanctification. Saint Paul reminds us the Word of God is living and active. It gives us wisdom and courage in our daily life. God who is faithful will give to completion the deeds He started among them by the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Finally, Paul reminds the presbyters of Ephesus to not forget the poor among their communities. The presbyter dedication to those in need is not something added to our consecration but rather belongs to it just as it was for Jesus Christ. Saint Paul says: “You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. In all this I have given you an example […] we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said: ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’”.
In some way, St. Paul is saying that it is fundamental to know the theological mystery of the Church and to preach and build the Church of God with the grace of his Word, but all this has in the life of charity with the poor its sacramental fulfilment. It is in the giving of ourselves where our consecration «in the truth» is indeed fulfilled.
/Portals/8/Homily 2016 March 31.pdf
/Portals/8/Homily 2016 April 7.pdf
/Portals/8/Homily 2016 March 16.pdf