He dwells among us: Triple Crown of Dignity

By Bishop Richard F. Stika

“Christian, recognize your dignity…. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness.” –St. Leo the Great

Do you know that, by virtue of your baptism, you participate in a special way in the threefold mission of Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King? It is this triple dignity of our baptism that helps each of us to become the saints we are called to be by offering ourselves and our daily activities in union with the one sacrifice of Christ, proclaiming His Gospel and ordering our lives and the world about us according to the plan of God.

In our baptismal priesthood, we are encouraged,  “Like living stones, [to] let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). It is a reminder that, as a temple of the Holy Spirit, we must never cease beautifying this holy dwelling of God with our prayers, our dying to self, and our sacrifices for love of God and neighbor.

Here we must be careful to distinguish between the “common priesthood” that all the baptized share in and the “ministerial priesthood” of the ordained through the sacrament of holy orders. While there is but one priesthood of Christ that we all share in, there are different ways of participating in it.

Through our “baptismal” or “common” priesthood, we are able to participate in the sacred liturgy of the Church as part of the Mystical Body of Christ. The “ministerial” priesthood of the ordained, by which a priest is configured to and acts in persona Christi Capitis (in the person of Christ the Head), enables him to embody Christ’s threefold office and to be a sacramental gift to the community. The priest is called to serve the faithful and to help them to live out their priestly, prophetic, and kingly office and mission.

Christ’s priestly sacrifice calls for ours, and we most fully exercise our baptismal priesthood when we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass through our offering. During the offertory, we should bring all our prayers, crosses, and sufferings, our labors, our marriage and family life, our heart, and all our longings — in a word, everything — and place them upon the altar with the gifts to be transformed into the sacrament of our salvation. We then join our hearts with the priest in praying that the Lord accept our humble offerings and unite us to the perfect sacrifice of His Son. We offer the ordinary, like the water poured into the stone jars at the wedding of Cana, and Christ transforms them into the wine of our salvation.

Every day, then, should be a series of offertories as an extension of that which we make in the offertory of the Mass. Here, I would like to recommend the importance of praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily, as well as beginning each day with a morning offering, such as the following:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in thanksgiving for your favors, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.

In answer to the longing of Moses, who said, “Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets [and that]… the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” (Numbers 11:29), we share in the mission of Christ in proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed. If a prophet is one who proclaims the word of the Lord, it is because he or she first prays, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9). The more we read and reflect upon sacred Scripture and the great truths of our faith, and share it in a witness of love, joy, and mercy, the more we exercise our prophetic mission in Christ.

To live as a king in Christ means above all that we realize, “Apart from [Christ] we can do nothing” (John 15:5). Because Christ “came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28), we exercise our kingship by being a servant. But in order to best serve others worthily, we must be masters of and have dominion over ourselves. It is the practice of the virtues that best helps us, to borrow the old Army slogan, to “Be all that we can be.” It is sin and vice that most keep us from becoming all that God created us to be.

By virtue of our baptism, we are freed from the power of darkness, but we must especially exercise our kingship in the spiritual combat in which we seek to overcome the kingdom of sin. We are called to be victorious kings because, “With God we shall do bravely [for] He tramples down our foes” (Psalm 60:14). In doing so, we are better able to make a selfless gift of ourselves in the service of others, especially the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40). May we rejoice with the psalmist who proclaims the dignity of our kingship: “O Lord, your strength gives joy to the king” (Psalm 21:2).

In his inaugural homily as pope in 1978, St. John Paul II spoke words that continue to echo beyond his long pontificate: “Do not be afraid to welcome Christ and to accept His power!” May you open the doors of your heart to Christ and pray daily for a greater exercise of the power of your priestly, kingly, and prophetic mission in Christ so as to order all of your life and all within your realm according to the plan of God!

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