Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Priesthood of Jesus Christ: Extending His Loving Hand

Saint Michael Parish Website Reflection February 2010

The Gospel accounts of Jesus healing a leper (Luke 5, Matthew 8, Mark 1) have several common elements. Three are notable. The man stricken with leprosy says to Jesus, “If you will it, you can make me clean.” Jesus extends His hand and the man is healed by His touch. After the healing, Jesus commands the man, “See that you tell no one anything but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”

The man has placed his faith in Jesus, the great teacher whose renown has spread through all of Galilee and beyond. He sees in Jesus the answer to his needs and earnest prayers. He begs mercy and healing, trusting that this Jesus can indeed make him clean. While he has likely never seen Jesus before, the faith of others, and their miracles of healing, have shown to this man that Jesus is the fulfillment of his deepest longings. He trusts completely in Jesus, even surrendering his need and desire to be healed to the judgment of the Master: “If you will it, you can make me clean!”

It is self-evident that Jesus could have worked healings in a myriad of ways. He is the incarnate Son of God and all things are possible for Him. Some of the healing stories in the Gospels reveal that Jesus has the power to heal without being physically present to the person, as is the case of the centurion’s servant. In the case of the leper, Jesus heals through a physical touch. We all know the healing power of intimacy – a pat on the shoulder, an embrace, a handshake – and how being physically present with another person can ease our troubles. Jesus is intimately present to the man stricken with leprosy. His human presence no doubt brings comfort. The laying on of his hands - the divine touch - brings healing and restoring grace.

After the man has been healed, Jesus tells him to go and show himself to the priests, as “proof for them,” and to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. The man’s appearance before the priests testifies to the reality of his healing and to the power and identity of Jesus. It is also interesting to note that Jesus includes the priests and the ritual of offering the sacrifice of the Mosaic Law in the act of healing. The inclusion of the priests was not necessary, for He could have acted alone in an entirely new way. Instead, He includes the Hebrew priests in his healing and, because He came to fulfill the law rather than abolish it, He also brings about the fulfillment of priesthood in the priesthood of the Church. His action signifies that He desires the sacrificial priesthood to be part of His ministry. Indeed, the institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper and the Great Commission of the first priests on the mountain before Jesus ascended into Heaven were carried out by our Lord in order that the priesthood would be an extension of His ministry among us. His ministry has never ended but continues in the Church through the ministry of priests.

In particular, the gift of healing continues to be revealed in the priesthood. Priests administer sacraments daily and throughout the world for the healing of body and soul. The Anointing of the Sick is given to those seriously sick or in danger of death. The Church prays that the sick person be restored to good health and that the dying be embraced by God in the eternal joy of Heaven, according to the will of our Creator. In the Sacrament of Penance, our souls are cleansed and healed, and “through the ministry of the Church” God gives us pardon of our sins and peace in knowing the depth of his love and mercy. In these great sacraments of healing, the grace of Christ is active in the Church’s ritual through the ministry of the priest. Jesus is alive in the Church! Broken, sorrowful, sinful people are healed!

The priest heals in other ways as well: helping married couples work through differences, reconciling people to the Church, guiding men and women through the annulment process, counseling women in difficult pregnancy and post-abortion situations, being present to the families of people who have died, and so many more. The priest’s shepherding can bring a sorrowful and confused soul to wholeness and a new beginning. The priest’s word of truth, spoken with conviction and authenticity, brings healing to a fractured culture often caught up in lies.

In every age and place, the healing touch of Christ is extended through the world through the hands, the heart, and the words of a priest. In this Year for Priests, let us pray for our priests, that, even in their own fragility and sinfulness, they may extend Christ's loving hand and heal.

A Prayer for Priests

by Cardinal Cushing

O Almighty, Eternal God, look upon the Face of your Son and for love of him, who is the Eternal High Priest, have pity on your priests. Remember, O most compassionate God, that they are but weak and frail human beings. Stir up in them the grace of their vocation which is in them by the imposition of the bishop's hands. Keep them close to you, lest the enemy prevail against them, so that they may never do anything in the slightest degree unworthy of their sublime vocation.

O Jesus, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests; for your unfaithful and tepid priests; for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for your tempted priests; for the lonely and desolate priests; for your young priests; for your dying priests; for the souls of your priests in purgatory. But above all, I commend to you the priests dearest to me, the priest who baptized me, the priests who have absolved me from my sins, the priests at whose Masses I have assisted and who have offered me your Body and Blood in Holy Communion, the priests who have taught and instructed me or helped and encouraged me, and the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way.

O Jesus, keep them all close to your Heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.

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