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BEFORE THE CROSS | Laity is called to study and exercise the ‘baptismal priesthood’

A new president will be inaugurated Friday, Jan. 20. What spiritual preparations are you making?

We might want to forget how contentious the race for the presidency was, or about the unsettled response to the result. But, as people of faith, we shouldn't forget.

Instead, we should pivot on those things and ask: what contribution will we make over the next four years to the well-being of the country? If the next four years were to be measured by our actions and attitudes, how would they be remembered? Answering those questions requires some spiritual preparation.

The Letter to the Hebrews, which we read this week, gives us fruitful avenue to pursue.

All week, the readings from Hebrews are about the high priesthood of Jesus. We share in that priesthood. As the Catechism states: The baptized "share in the priesthood of Christ, in His prophetic and royal mission. ... Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers." (CCC 1268)

Yes, the ordained and the common priesthood differ, but we often focus on the negative part of that distinction — listing all the things a lay person can't do — and don't develop our positive understanding. What is the baptismal priesthood, and how is it exercised?

The Catechism addresses it in terms of consecrating the world to God by accomplishing our works, prayers, undertakings, family life, relaxation and so on in the Spirit (CCC 901). "Consecrating" is the key word in this description.

First, the language of consecration is deliberate. The ordained priest consecrates bread and wine, and they become the Body and Blood of Christ. The lay person consecrates the world, and it becomes a spiritual sacrifice to God.

Second, the consecration isn't apart from or in addition to a person's daily life, but right in the middle of it. Interceding for people, listening with attentiveness, working with diligence, providing for your family, and whatever else makes up your day — doing it as an offering to God is how a lay person consecrates the world.

Men in the seminary study for at least four years before they're ordained for the priesthood. What if we took the next four years to study the baptismal priesthood — what it is and how to exercise it? You wouldn't have to wait four years to exercise it. Instead, with each passing year, you would exercise it more deliberately — becoming closer to Christ and bringing Christ's life to others, making your daily words and deeds an offering and consecrating the world to God. That would be four years well spent, no matter what happened at the level of the government.

Exercising the baptismal priesthood in a deeper way — bringing the kingdom of God one step closer to everyone in our circle of influence — would be a great way to contribute to the well-being of the country for the next four years. Maybe we should pray for that, as we prepare for the inauguration. 

RELATED ARTICLE(S):FRENTE A LA CRUZ | Los laicos son llamados a estudiar y ejercer el “sacerdocio bautismal”

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