Friday 22 February 2008

How does a priest enter into Jesus' prayer?

Continuing the reflections from last Autumn's Priests' retreat in Ars, Fr Frost focussed on the Priestly Prayer of Christ in John's Gospel (chapter 17). In this segment of the Gospel we encounter Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, praying to the first Person and drawing human nature into this relationship through the ministry of His apostles and through them, all those who will be ordained.
The next day Christ will draw human nature into this relationship as he suffers and dies on the cross - the greatest outpouring of love will be given to humanity from the cross and it will continue being given through time through the ministry of priests. But on the eve of his Passion, Christ first draws His priests into this new intimacy as He prays. What John 17 tells us is that Christ is plunging human nature fully into the life of the Trinity through His Paschal Mystery.
Today we still encounter attempts to secularise the Priesthood - we should get married, we shopuld be able to have 'fun' like everyone else, we shouldn't 'cut ourselves off'. But Christ, in His prayer, is not taking us out of the world, rather He is sending us into the world in order to pastor souls. Priest are included in the Prayer of Christ, the Priesthood is specific in this way - this is why they are ministers of Christ, unlike lay-people who are not ministers. Priests have a ritual and a sacramental role, not becuase these jobs need doing, but because priests have been given an ontological relationship by Christ.
Those who say that the New Testament does not speak about the Priesthood are speaking nonsense. In John 17 we see the way in which the Priesthood has been established. And it is good to note how JPII in Christifideles Laici, 23 taught that lay-people cannot be understood as ministers. What is proper to priests is not proper to lay-people; what is proper to them is the apostolate.

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