In this time of crisis, we’re being stripped of quite a lot. Roles, practices, relational habits and interaction, labels, even jobs or our health. In addition, the way we practice our faith has completely changed. Within my own church tradition, Catholics are being told we can confess our sins directly to God without a priest intercessor, that we have no obligation to go to mass, and that we can eat meat on Fridays during Lent. These directives would have been unthinkable to generations of Catholics who have gone before, and it causes me to stop and wonder what our faith is made of. In a time of trial, what can we shed and what is essential?
I’ve known some wonderful priests who have shepherded and taught me throughout my life. Fr. John Kearns taught me about the humanity of priests. Fr. John Denning gave my faith structure and joy. Fr. Joe Callahan taught me by metaphor, humility, and humor about the kindness of God. Fr. Joe Raeke gave my faith color and a spine. There are homilies by Fr. Rick Gribble and Fr. George Piggford that continue to inform my life. So many good priests, more than I can name, have shared something with me that has helped my faith to progress, but my faith life was never their responsibility. It’s mine.
At our Baptism, we were anointed with chrism and named for who we are in the faith: priest, prophet, and king. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ…”to be a holy priesthood” (1Peter 2:5). By Baptism they share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophet and royal mission. They are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people…” (1Peter 2:9). Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers (CCC, 1267, 1268)
So what does this mean for us, now, as the habits and practices of our faith are stripped away? Are we to sit on the sidelines waiting for churches to open in order to restart our faith life? Absolutely not.
As priest we’re called to make offerings to God in prayer. We offer our gifts and vocation and very selves at every mass and outside of mass. Again, according to the Catechism, “The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king” (CCC, 1546). So, in this time, you are called to consider your vocation and your gifts. How can you offer these to God and His people in prayer?
As prophet, we’re called to preach and teach the faith. Yes, you! What do you know about Jesus and the Good News that you could share? Tell someone today.
As king, we take leadership responsibilities within our family, community and the wider world in temporal affairs, acting as Christ would. So in this role, we look around, take stock, see a need and do our best to fill it. It’s our call as Christians, the work that stems from our baptism. How we can we serve a weary world today, even from our own homes as we shelter in place?
In this time, it can be tempting to sit back and wait for our regular seasonal faith practices to resume, checking the boxes of daily or weekly mass attendance, while giving up chocolate and eating our Friday fish and chips, but that is not our call and this is not that time. In this time, our faith should be energized and flexed, strengthened and shared. Now is the time to step into the roles to which you were called decades ago, when God named you for who you really are. Yes, we’ve been stripped of a lot these days, but what is essential is what remains.
You were created in love, and you’re known and beloved, called and chosen for such a time as this. By definition, you’re a sacrament, a sign of God’s love for his people. You’re essential, and the world needs you now more than ever.