Gift and Mystery – Fr Crooker and JP2 on Priesthood

In his talk Sunday afternoon, Father Crooker, CSB, spoke about the mystery of simple things that God uses for sacramental purposes — water, bread, salt. You would not think that such small things could have such an profound impact. Chapter six of St John’s gospel is so rich. It starts with a simple story of hunger and nourishment — and involves the miracle of the loaves. But then Christ leads people to understand that he is the true object of hunger and he gives himself to us as food. That is the hard saying. Our Lord asks, will you also turn away and go? Fr Crooker repeated with great emotion – “Lord, where else can we go?”

So through the mystery of bread and wine, we receive the Eternal son of God, one in being with the Father, born of the Virgin Mary. Why such insignificant materials, Fr Crooker repeated. Why not more elegance? That is the way of the sacred mysteries – the Sacraments. So too, with the priesthood. God uses men who have no special capacity — yet they are given the power to bring the bread of God to the faithful; to undo knots of sin which humans cannot untie. And they teach and proclaim the gospel. All are unlikely candidates. It is something profoundly mysterious. There is one sure lesson — trust in his astonishing words.

Fr Crooker shared with us the story of his efforts to respond to a call to serve as a priest, It took some starts and stops, but he came to join the Basilian order, and he has served faithfully for almost 57 years. Fr Crooker told us that he always is aware his unworthiness and this is related to the mystery of the sacrament of priesthood. He spoke gratefully of the examples of the Popes who have reigned during the last 150 years The Church is fortunate to have their witness.

In chapter 8 John Paul II also marvels at the great mystery and gift in answering directly the question “Who is the Priest?” Here are the five points he makes about Priest as —

1. A steward of the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1-2) – first, the priest does not own the treasures or goods he dispenses, but acts as a steward, who must manage them “justly and responsibly.”

2. Living a wonderful exchange between God and man – a man offers his humanity to Christ, so that Christ may use him as an instrument of salvation. This is a great fulfillment of our humanity to bless God at the altar of the whole earth.

3. Centered on the Eucharist — man must never lose sight of the debt man as a creature owes to the Creator and with Christ, offer himself to the Father. By this sacrifice, Christ the priest “makes righteous in the Father’s eye all mankind and indirectly all creation.” So the Eucharist “must be the most important part of the priest’s day.”

4. Acting “in persona Christi” – the Eucharist is memory and presence; the priest not only recalls the sacred events of Christ’s passion, but through the Holy Spirit he makes Christ present.

5. Always deepening the “Mysterium Fidei” – the mystery of faith refers to the Eucharist, but also the priesthood and the common priesthood of all the faithful; for all the faithful share in the Eucharistic sacrifice and participate in the three fold mission of Christ. Pope John Paul II says this is “the deepest reason behind the priestly vocation” (79).

6. Redeemer of the World — “Christ is a priest because he is the Redeemer of the world.” So John Paul speaks about the renewed discovery of “man as a person.” And he concludes “I see ever more clearly the close between the message of that Encyclical (Redemptor hominis) and everything that is found in the heart of man through his sharing in Christ’s priesthood.” (82)

Such deep mystery and countless blessing come from the insignificant hands of the priest. A thank you to Father Crooker and all of the priests in this Year of the Priest. Gift and mystery is the most suitable phrase for their presence among us..

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