Our Link to Christ as a Priest, Prophet and King
I’ve always loved the stained glass in our Church, and the morning sun is often shining through the window over the baptism font, that of Christ the King. I love the placement of the window, because when we are baptized, we are incorporated into the role of our Lord as priest, prophet and king; hence the window shines over the baptism font as this sacrament is celebrated, but it’s also what we exit out going under, reminding us that it is now our job to be this in the world.
To borrow from Fr. Rocky Hoffman, executive director of Relevant Radio: “Jesus is priest because: a) he offered the sacrifice of himself to God in propitiation for our sins, and b) he is the bridge between man and God. Jesus is prophet because of the holiness of his words and teachings and his predictions of the future; finally, Jesus is king, because as God he has the fullness of power to carry out the duties of his kingly office: legislator, executor, and judge. And on his cross he was labeled the “King of the Jews” and when interrogated by Pontius Pilate he clearly admitted “Yes, I am a king.”
But here’s the thing. Through our baptism, we are, as Fr. Rocky rightly puts it, “grafted” onto and into Jesus and made partakers in His divine nature. As such, through our baptism, we too share in the mission of Jesus as a priest, a prophet and a king. So how do we live out these aspects of our faith as Christians?
The role of the priest is to sanctify or make holy. We do this through our words and actions and growing in the faith. The ordained priest is there to administer sacraments, and to lead the congregation at Mass; standing in the place of Christ, we are, as my former spiritual director put it “God’s unworthy tool,” so we are aware of our sinfulness, but also of how we are loved by God and strive to grow in holiness but also through our administration of the sacraments, through our preaching, through our ministry, help people grow in holiness. This is not just the role of the ordained priesthood though. We all do it; as I shared a few weeks back in a homily, talking about the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, through so many ways we can help others come to know the faith, from praying for and with them, and to also be a prophet who teaches the faith.
The role of the prophet is to teach. An ordained priest does this through the homily, and talking about the faith with others. But again, through the priesthood of all believers, all of us have this role. We first teach ourselves, which is ongoing, by learning our faith. We teach then by words and action. A parent teaches the faith to their young by how the live their lives and actions, but also in talking about the faith to their kids, in taking them to Mass and praying with them. We also should take seriously the words “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” that we hear as one of the dismissals at the end of Mass and do just that. As I’ve said many times, we cannot think our faith needs to be hidden. Rather we can’t be afraid to engage in conversations and arguments with others, to challenge people by admonishing the sinner and instructing the ignorant through true evangelization.
The role of being a king refers our leadership roles. Administratively a bishop leads the local church, joined by the priests who assist him in parishes. Their role is to help people in the parishes they serve find their gifts. Bishop Robert Barron has a great description of this role. As he puts it: “Finally, what does it mean for the ordinary Catholic to be a king? In the theological sense, a king is someone who orders the charisms (gifts) within a community so as to direct that community toward God. In this way, he is like the general of an army or the conductor of an orchestra: he coordinates the efforts and talents of a conglomeration of people in order to help them achieve a common purpose. Thus, a Catholic parent directs her children toward the accomplishment of their God-given missions, educating them, shaping them interiorly, molding their behavior, disciplining their desires, etc. A Catholic politician appreciates the moral dimension of his work, and legislates, cajoles, and directs accordingly. A Catholic private equity investor saves a company that provides indispensable jobs in a declining neighborhood, etc. How does one grow in the capacity to exercise kingly leadership? One can do so by overcoming the cultural prejudice in favor of a privatized religion. Most of the avatars of secularism would accept religion as a personal preoccupation, something along the lines of a hobby. But such an attenuated spirituality has nothing to do with a robustly Biblical sense of religion. On the Catholic reading, religious people—the baptized—come forth boldly and publicly and are more than willing to govern, to be kings, out of religious conviction. If you are looking for examples of what I’m describing here, look no further than William Lloyd Garrison, Fulton Sheen, Martin Luther King, or Dorothy Day. Baptized kings who refuse to reign are like a hilltop city covered in clouds.” We are all leaders; so we can’t be afraid to live out our faith. For what happens at Mass should impact how we lead our lives and what we do after Mass. As Bishop Barron also said in his homily last Easter, the Christian is meant to be “weird” in the sense we are in this world but have a focus on heaven; people should perceive us as different, which is why we, as people of hope, are actively leading in this world through being an apologist for our faith, through our actions of hope, through taking the high road and saying yes to some things and no to others. The virtue of fortitude, guided by prudence so we know how to act and lead, is very helpful as we live out our kingship.
Indeed no matter what we do in life for our vocation, we all share in these roles of priest, prophet and king. Vatican II stressed how this was not just the role of the ordained priest, but the role of all the baptized. Let’s never forget our faith isn’t something we live out for an hour each week, but a way of life that informs all that we do, and strive to change the world by setting it on fire as people of hope engaged in the world.
God bless, ~Fr. Paul
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