Fr. Bryan Howard
Divine Mercy Sunday - 28 April 2019
Three sacraments were instituted during Paschal Triduum, the ministerial priesthood, the Eucharist, and Confession. The Eucharist and ministerial priesthood were instituted at the Last Supper, when Jesus showed His disciples what to do and told them to "do this in memory of me." You cannot have one without the other. You need the ministerial priesthood because only a priest can offer the sacrifice of the Mass, which is Christ’s own sacrifice offered to God the Father anew, and you can't have a priesthood with the Mass, because a priest is, by definition, one who offers sacrifices to God on behalf of the people.
In the Eucharistic prayer, the celebrant prays, "Remember, Lord, your servants and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them." Everyone who is gathered at Mass offers a sacrifice to God, and so you are all also priests, through the grace of baptism; it's called the baptismal priesthood or the priesthood of all the faithful. What is the sacrifice that all Christians are called to offer? "The sacrifice of praise:" your joys and sorrows, your works of charity and faith, your prayers of thanks for the graces God has given you and of petition for what you need from God, and the ways in which you glorify God in your life. And what are you offering this sacrifice for? Listen to the rest of the prayer, "for the redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and paying their homage to you, the eternal God, living and true."
Baptism is another sacrament that is linked to Easter, since we renew our baptismal promises every Easter, rejecting Satan and His works and empty promises and professing our faith in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Why do we do that at Easter? Why not at Christmas or the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord? The word sacrament didn’t always refer to the seven sacraments; originally it referred to the oath that a Roman legionary took upon entering the legion and again, every year, on the anniversary of the ascension of the current emperor. Our emperor, the King of the universe, was raised up in glory on Easter Sunday, and so every Easter we renew our oath to Him, and ask for His help to fulfill it. The baptismal priesthood is found in any Christian who offers up their lives and their deaths for the glory of God and in union with the life and death of Jesus Christ. Are you living out your oath, our baptismal promises, as a soldier for Christ. Our weapons are not swords and spears, but the Word of God and prayer, and our armor is truth, righteousness, and faith. For as St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
In battle we may be wounded, and so that leads us to the final sacrament that was instituted during this time, for our heavenly physician has given us a remedy for sin and it’s power over us. “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” Jesus gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins, and they passed this authority down to their successors the bishops, down to today. Every Catholic bishop has apostolic succession, meaning that they can trace their ordination back to the apostles through the laying on of hands, as Archbishop Aymond was consecrated by Archbishop Schulte, who was consecrated by Cardinal Krol, and so on. The bishop then delegates his priests to assist him in this ministry. The power of Confession, as all the sacraments, comes from the Cross. On the Cross Jesus died to forgive our sins, and in the Confessional that forgiveness is made available to us. It doesn’t make sense to leave a wound open and untreated so it can get infected, which, untreated, will end up killing us. Mortal sins kill our relationship with God and wound our souls, and venial sins wound our relationship with God, but enough small wounds can kill just as surely as one grievous wound. In His mercy, God desires not only to forgive our sins but to help us to avoid them in the first place.
In baptism we are commissioned as soldiers for Christ and promise to serve Him faithfully, in the Eucharist we are strengthened for the spiritual combat, and in Confession our wounds are healed. So let us not surrender, but fight for Christ.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.