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July 26, 2009

What is a Priest?

    Last weekend Fr. Dumont spoke to us about his love of the priesthood.  It is understandable that a man must love his priesthood if he is to minister to God’s people for his entire lifetime.  We, as a parish are fortunate to have a pastor who loves his priesthood and has not grown jaded in its living.

We are well aware that the priesthood has been severely criticized over the past few years. This criticism has caused much repercussion throughout the church.  Many people have become confused about the priesthood, its role and its meaning.  Since the church has asked us to focus on the priesthood this year, perhaps we could take some time to deepen our knowledge on the subject.  For this task we will lean on the knowledge of others who are well versed on the issue.  This week will look as the origin of the priesthood in Scripture relying on the work of Fr. John Hardon, S.J.  

Hardon tells us that the priesthood has it origins in the Old Testament.  “As we read the pages of the Old Law, going back to the early history of Israel, we see that priests were an essential part of the chosen people.  Their function was to act as mediators between the people and God.  A priest was, therefore, first of all a mediator.  This concept has been refined, deepened, and expanded but not substantially changed from the Old Law to the New Law.  He stood between the people whom he represented and the God whom he addressed.”

“If the first function of a priest was to be a mediator, his second function was to offer sacrifice.  A priest, then, was a mediator who offered sacrifice.  Not everyone was allowed to exercise the priestly office, however.  Beyond being a mediator and offering sacrifice, a priest was one especially chosen by God to do the mediation and offer the oblation to God.  In a word, a priest must be divinely chosen.   Only those specially chosen by Yahweh were permitted to offer sacrifice.” 

(Please note that there is not mention of being worthy.  We often make the mistake of thinking that only the most perfect men are chosen.  This is not true.  We must remember that all priests are human beings and all humans are subjected to being sinners.  We cannot lose sight of this fact as we strive to deepen our knowledge.  Most priests do strive to live an upright and just life with sincerity and fidelity but when does fail we should not allow this to weaken our faith.) parentheses are mine.

    You may think that the priesthood of the Old Testament is not at all what a present day priest does, but this would be a false notion.  It is true that today’s priesthood is somewhat different but its roots still stand.  The main function of a present day priest is to offer sacrifice, albeit a different type of sacrifice.  He continues to be a mediator and he is still chosen by God.  It is important to remember this as we progress through the year.  Please pray for your priests especially through this year as I am sure they pray for you.
                            Lorette P. Nault