Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, prays as Father Joseph Phuong Nguyen, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Vancouver, lays his hands on Father Pablo Santa Maria. Father Santa Maria was ordained to the priesthood at Holy Rosary Cathedral May 26. Archbishop Miller told a crowd gathered at Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June that priests are called to imitate Christs as servants. Nathan Rumohr / The B.C. Catholic.
By Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB
This is an excerpt from a speech given at the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.
Priests are servants of the Eucharist.
As such, any preoccupation with power, prestige, or privilege contradicts the call to a ministry of service. In all their activities they are to imitate Christ, Who made "servant" His highest title of honour.
Pope Benedict could not be more to the point: "Jesus does not come in the guise of a master of this world, but the One Who is the true Master comes as a servant. His priesthood is not dominion but service."
St. John's narration of the Last Supper does not record Christ's words over the bread and cup as do the three synoptic evangelists. Instead, we have the account of Jesus washing His disciples' feet, an act that sheds light on how we are to understand the Eucharist itself.
Not only were the disciples to transform bread and wine into His Body and Blood "in remembrance of Him," by by washing one another's feet, they were also to imitate their Master's example as One Who "came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life [as] a ransom for many."
By stooping down to wash the dirty feet of His surprised disciples, Jesus embodies the kind of transforming effect He has in mind when He institutes the Eucharist as the sacrament of love: "For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you" (Jn 13:15). The Eucharist is a gift of His love, which, in turn, calls forth a response of love from those who celebrate it.
Whenever he offers the Eucharist, the priest is fulfilling the primary act of his being a servant. In doing so, he carries out a service that immerses the faithful in communion with God and with one another. He does this as Christ's humble servant, imitating his bent-over Master in the upper room.
To Christians gathered for the celebration of Mass, "Be what you can see," St. Augustine said, "and accept what you are." These words invite us to respond vigorously to the appeal to "be Christ" for those around us. We are now His Body in the midst of the world.
To paraphrase a famous saying attributed to St. Teresa of Avila: we are the eyes with which Jesus's compassion looks at those in need; we are the hands He holds out to bless and to heal; we are the feet He uses to go and do good; and we are the lips through which His Gospel is proclaimed.
Moreover, it is important to realize that when we share in the Eucharist, we are not paying tribute to the memory of a dead hero by merely prolonging what he has done. On the contrary, through the ministry of the ordained priest, Christ becomes alive within us, His Body, the Church, His priestly people.
"By nourishing ourselves with Him in the Eucharist and by receiving the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we truly form the Body of Christ that we have received; we are truly in communion with Him and with each other and genuinely become His instruments, bearing witness to Him before the world."
For the full text and video of the speech click here.