Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Eucharistic Revival Series: Our Common Priesthood – Not a Spectator Sport

I can remember going to my first high school football game. It was late fall and the weather, though cold, was beautiful. My sister was one of the cheerleaders for the Spartans, the team from DePaul High School in Wayne, N.J. Watching the football team without a clue about the game made me squirm and complain about the cold as I huddled under a stadium blanket. My father desperately tried to teach me the rules of the game, but all I was interested in was watching my sister cheer. What do you want from an 8 year old?

Writing this column, I searched the phrase “spectator sport” and discovered that in the United States, American football is the largest sport under this category. To my surprise, soccer is the largest international sport, with global interest.

You are probably wondering, “Why is Sister talking about spectator sports when she usually writes about the faith?” That is a great question! I came across a quote in the book Eucharist: Celebrating its Rhythms in Our Lives that reads, “Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist is often understood in a very passive way, as some sort of static physical presence. Our task at liturgy is not to be there as passive spectators but to appreciate and respond to what is being celebrated. At Eucharist, we need to recognize the Christ who is present there, not only in the consecrated bread and wine, but in the assembly gathered in his name, in the word which is proclaimed, in the priest who presides, and in the charity that should characterize the community. The presence of Christ overwhelms us with is pervasiveness and power. Unless we appreciate this, we cannot respond with a faith and love that will transform us.”1

“… to appreciate and respond to what is being celebrated.” Hmmm. Does the average person really enter into what is being celebrated in the liturgy? I have to honestly admit that at times I do, but most of the time, I stand as a spectator viewing the liturgy from my pew. The question that arises, then, is “How can we change our perspective from spectator to participant?”

I think the journey to that perspective begins with the understanding of what the common priesthood, also known as baptismal priesthood, is. We all are aware, at least on a high level, of what our ministerial priests do. They are also known as our pastors and parochial vicars. We see them working, on a daily basis, offering the Sacrifice of the Mass, celebrating other sacraments as well as a plethora of ministerial responsibilities. But what about baptismal priesthood?

Lumen Gentium, a document of the Second Vatical Council, explains it in this way: “Therefore all the disciples of Christ, preserving in prayer and praising God, should present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Everywhere on earth they must bear witness to Christ and give an answer to those who seek an account of that hope of eternal life which is in them. … But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.”2

What does that really mean? The moment we were baptized is the moment we were made priest, prophet, and king/queen. I know, I know, I have written about this before, but not in this light. I truly believe that we cannot read or reflect long or deep enough on the meaning of our baptism. With this being said, our common priesthood is “fundamentally about two key concepts: 1) Making a sacrifice of our lives, through prayer and reception of the sacraments. 2) Living as a witness by a holy life and active charity.”3

These two points, when actually lived, will begin to change your perspective. It will begin, through time, to change your heart to make you move from a spectator to a “player on the field.”

There is a caveat to this, though. Just as it takes time and practice to become an actual player on the field, it takes time and practice to deepen our spiritual life. The difference is that winners of a game are forgotten in time. Winners in the spiritual life are given eternal life.

So, let us not just sit in the pews and stay spectators but rather live our faith actively!

1 Bernier, P. Eucharist: Celebrating its rhythms in our lives. Ave Maria Press. 1993. P. 155.

2 Lumen Gentium
3 Common Priesthood

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, The Catholic Witness

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