Blog # 320 Catholic Theology # 7
At the Last Supper Jesus did not say of His actions over the bread and over the wine symbolize this but do THIS. Also He did not say remember me by calling to mind what He had dome, but by doing what I have done you will remember me. "This" in the present context means what I have done. Jesus is speaking as God. When God tells us to do something and we do it, I will be done! "This my body given for you."
I remember an incident many years ago when I was instructing a man scheduled to be executed the following week. I took out a match from a box of matches I held in my hand. I lit one of them by striking it on the side of the box. Then I said to him: "Do what I have done." He said "I can't." " Why not?" "I have no matches". I handed him the matches and he did exactly what I had done. Something like that happened at the Last Supper.
No one but God could say of bread this is not bread but my body given for you and no one but God could say of wine this is not wine but my blood poured out for you. Jesus did and said this of bread and wine at the Last Supper. Then He told the Apostles to do what He had done. We cannot understand how this happens, but our faith in the divinity of Jesus enables us to believe it was by His infinite divine power. As it was for me and the matches for the man who did not have a match, unless I gave him a match he could not have done what I had done, so in the case of Jesus and the Apostles at the Last Supper. Unless Jesus gave them a share in His divine power they could not have done what He had done. The Apostles did this and we believe the power they received was handed down from one generation to the next according to God's will.
The same infinite power and love present in the sacrificial worship offered the Father by Jesus on Calvary was present and active in the experience of Jesus with the Apostles at the Last Supper and is also present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
With the Apostles physically present with Jesus at the Last Supper, it is easy enough to see a definite practical sharing in that worship given them. But what about the rest of us two thousand years and the many miles that separate us physically from Calvary and the Last Supper? How are we connected? What is the basis of any claim we may make to share in that power, love, and worship?
The authorization and right to participate actively and officially in this daily offering of sacrificial worship throughout the world is received in the Sacrament of Baptism when we are officially identified with Jesus as members of His Body, the Church. As branches on a vine we are identified with Jesus living in us as He lives in the Father and the Father lives in Him. Through Baptism we become the answer to the prayer of Jesus in this regard given in John 17: 21,23: "I pray for those who will come to believe I me that all may be one, as we, Father, are one - I living in them, you living in me."
This privilege of sharing with Jesus in the sacrificial worship He offered the Father on Calvary and continues to offer in the Mass extends to all members of the Church, men and women, who are not otherwise excluded through the presence of willful serious sin in their lives. We are officially entitled to this sharing through Baptism. It is referred to as the priesthood of the laity. Jesus, before He was identified and authorized as sole priest-redeemer of the New Covenant, related in a similar way through circumcision to the sacrifices of the Chosen People. Jesus was not a member by birth of the priestly tribe of Levi. In a similar way all who have been Baptized are qualified to share in offering His sacrificial worship though not all participate in the ministerial role through ordination.
The official privilege of sharing by all members of the Church in the sacrificial worship of Jesus in the Mass through Baptism is not a new idea in the Church, though I am not sure all of us are currently keenly aware of it. Back more than seventy five years ago when I was in about the third grade in St. Thomas the Apostle parochial school we began each school day with what we referred to as 'the morning offering'. I still use it in my daily morning prayer. "O Jesus, through the immaculate heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers works joys, and sufferings of this day for the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of our Holy Father Francis. Amen,!"
The ministerial ministry sets apart, through ordination, certain members of the Church who are officially designated to preside over liturgical celebrations and confect the
Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass. It is a genuinely servant role for the worshipping community. There is a similarity here between the role of the members of the priestly tribe of Levi in offering the sacrificial worship of the Chosen People of Israel and the ministerial role of ordained priests in the case of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.