|What's So Special about Priests?
Lessons from the feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Acts 3: 11-26.
• Psalm 8: 2, 5-9.
• Luke 24: 35-48.
Lessons from the feria, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Acts 8: 26-40.
• Psalm 117: 24, 22-23.
• John 20: 11-18.
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the typicon of the Byzantine-Ruthenian Rite:
• Acts 2: 38-43.
• John 3: 1-15.
9:20 AM 4/9/2015 — In yesterday's Gospel lesson—or, as they say on television, in our last episode—we noticed how none of those who encounter our Lord after His resurrection are able at first to recognize Him; not Mary Magdalene, not the other women, and not the two disciples on the road to Emmaus … at least not until He offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in their presence, whereupon He immediately disappears from their sight because there is no need for two manifestations of our Lord; so, with the Blessed Sacrament present, our Lord's human form vanishes because it is no longer needed.
In today's lesson he appears for the first time to His Apostles and, oddly enough, they do recognize Him, so much so that they think they're seeing a ghost. Why are they able to see what no one else could see? Simple. They're priests. They have a relationship to our Lord that no one else has; and, it's important to note that the risen Lord does not do for them what he did for the disciples in Emmaus: He does not say Mass for them; He doesn't have to because this is something that they're able to do for themselves.
Here's a little secret of which I'm sure you're not aware: prior to being ordained to the Holy Priesthood, every seminarian who has been ordained to the deaconate is required to write out in long hand a petition asking his bishop for ordination; and, in that petition, he must state the reason, and only one reason is considered valid. And it's not what you might think: it's not because he wants to help people, it's not because he wants to preach the Gospel, it's not because he wants to say Mass, it's not because he wants to serve the Church; the only reason he's allowed to give—and which he must write out in his own hand—is, “…for the honor and glory of God and the salvation of my own soul.” In other words, he has to tell his bishop that he wants to be a priest because he has come to believe that, unless he becomes a priest, he will not be saved.
Now, we're not going to go into the theological implications of that fact, as interesting as it is; it's just by way of emphasizing the fact that the relationship of the priest to our Lord is different from the relationship of everyone else to our Lord, which is why the Apostles are able to recognize Jesus after His resurrection when everyone else could not, and why our risen Lord, upon meeting the Apostles for the first time after rising from the dead, does not say Mass for them as He did for the disciples at Emmaus who were not priests.
But, priests or not, they are still men with all the weaknesses and temptations of men; their priesthood does not make them holier than anyone else, and it certainly doesn't make them any smarter, which is why even while recognizing our Lord they are incredulous, and think they're seeing a ghost. So, what does He do? He eats a piece of fish. This is a significant act, because it illustrates the fact that our Lord's resurrection from the dead was not something mystical or ethereal, and His risen presence was not some sort of heavenly projection: a heart muscle which had ceased to beat began to beat again; lungs which had become empty filled with air again; blood which had ceased to flow coursed through His veins once again. His body was a glorified one—a perfected one—but it was still the same body. The resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ is not a metaphor.
“O Lord, our God,” says today's Psalm, “how glorious is your name over all the earth! What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” (8: 2, 5 NABRE). And what greater evidence of our Lord's care for us than the gift of Himself in the Blessed Eucharist, and what further evidence than the fact that He gave the power to make the Eucharist happen to His apostles who, through the laying on of hands, passed that power on to other men down through the centuries? The earliest evidence proves that, from the moment that they began to build churches, early Christians began to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in them; and, contrary to popular opinion, they did not do it simply because they needed the Sacrament on hand to take to the sick; they did it because they wanted to pray before our Lord in the tabernacle. And we know this from no less ancient a source than Saint John Chrysostom, who preached on Jesus entering the Temple in Jerusalem, saying, “This was proper to a good son: to enter immediately into the house of his Father to render due honor to Him there—just as you, who should imitate Jesus, whenever you enter a city should first of all go the church" (Catena Aurea, III).
We do not need to envy the Apostles who saw and recognized the Lord after His resurrection; we see Him every day.