Priest, Altar and Lamb of Sacrifice
During the days of Easter the Risen One is present with us and his wounds are often visible. The fifth preface for the Easter season describes Jesus as priest, altar and lamb of sacrifice. Words of the Passion, but words that also describe us because we share the life of Christ.
As branches upon the vine we delight the Father by bearing much fruit, and what we ask shall be done for us. This will happen because we abide in God. One with God we know the Father’s will; what we ask is discerned through the will of the Father. And we bear fruit because the Lord is working with and through us. Listening to the will of the Father and open to the guidance of the Spirit we do the work of Jesus, and like Our Lord we will carry the Cross. Can we see our being priest, altar and lamb of sacrifice as flowing from our being one with the Father and doing the Father’s will?
In Acts we have an example. The first missionary journey of Barnabas and Paul ends in Derbe and Lystra where they are pelted with rocks. Paul says, “It is necessary to suffer many trials to enter into the Kingdom of God”. When the disciples retrace their steps back to Antioch they see again the people they had first visited. What do they find? Among these disciples they see joy and the Holy Spirit, signs and marvels, those who suffer for the faith and the Kingdom of God.
Paul and Barnabas have suffered for the Kingdom of God, they have followed the guidance the Holy Spirit as they fulfilled their commission of carrying the Good News to the gentiles, and they have borne much fruit. Acts will become narrower now, following only the story of Paul’s listening to the Spirit. The Macedonian who appears in Paul’s dream and calls, “Come over and help us”, is the new summons of the Spirit.
Being priest, altar and lamb invite us to see in the lives of Paul and Barnabas, and our own, rich ways that the Paschal Mystery is alive in us. Jesus is priest of the New Covenant; like the missionaries of the New Testament we bring the Good News to light through our faith. We hear the altar is not only the table for a meal or place of offering sacrifice, it is Jesus. What might be an object is personal intimacy. Our priesthood is something we exercise in intimacy. And the lamb of sacrifice gives its life without resistance for many reasons – forgiveness, thanksgiving, praise of God – and these reasons are ours as we touch the cross at different times.
Our celebration of the presence of the Risen One will end soon. We are invited like the first disciples in John’s Gospel to abide with Jesus and to be one with the Father. Like Paul who once again follows the summons the Holy Spirit, we bear the symbols of priest, prophet and lamb of sacrifice as we continue to present the Paschal Mystery to the world through our lives.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.