Halfway through a game of Trivial Pursuit the other night I was struck by the infinite goodness of God, which was a most uncommon feeling for me given the circumstances. I didn’t attribute the feeling to my unlikely domination of the competition thanks to a delicate mix of heat stroke and exhaustion in my husband and brother-in-law. No, that feeling was a euphoric wave of glory, unholy pride, and disbelief at my good luck. No, this sensation was different, a deep peace and unspeakable joy that rested deep in my soul. It wasn’t related to the game but had everything to do with my teammate, our dear friend who also happens to be a holy priest of God.
As we mulled over which country had been home to the world’s first brewery, agreed immediately upon the name that had come from the Polynesian word owhyhee, and exchanged glances as one of our opponents, red and brown from the sun and sunk deep in our couch with sore feet on the coffee table, answered “the Great Wall” in response to a question about a nineteenth century building project, I was overcome with gratitude for the mercy of God.
My teammate was an alter Christus. That morning he had spoken the words of consecration and now he was laughing with us about geography. He had held the precious body of Christ in his hands and now he was reading from our Trivial Pursuit cards. His soul carries on it a unique priestly mark that identifies him as another Christ and he is our friend!
Because not only did Christ give Himself to us in the sacraments, His Body to feed us, His grace to wash away our sins, baptize souls, and heal the sick, but He gave Himself to us through His beloved priests.
In the papal encyclical Mediator Dei Pope Pius XII writes, “For they alone, in answer to an inward supernatural call, have entered the august ministry, where they are assigned to service in the sanctuary and become, as it were, the instruments God uses to communicate supernatural life from on high to the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. Add to this, as We have noted above, the fact that they alone have been marked with the indelible sign ‘conforming’ them to Christ the Priest, and that their hands alone have been consecrated ‘in order that whatever they bless may be blessed, whatever they consecrate may become sacred and holy, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Let all, then, who would live in Christ flock to their priests. By them they will be supplied with the comforts and food of the spiritual life. From them they will procure the medicine of salvation assuring their cure and happy recovery from the fatal sickness of their sins. The priest, finally, will bless their homes, consecrate their families and help them, as they breathe their last, across the threshold of eternal happiness.”
Yes, priests act in persona Christi in the sacraments and not at Trivial Pursuit. But they always carry with them their priestly mark and therefore are always a special reflection of the Lord. I need to receive Jesus in the sacraments to survive and grow in my vocation as wife and mother, and those are unique moments of intimacy on which my soul depends. But sometimes in His infinite goodness God draws near and warms my home in the familiar smiles and beloved laughs of our priest friends. And these special gifts of His presence never fail to manifest to me His breathtaking generosity.
As I waved goodbye to our dear friend as he left, I felt the usual waves of warmth and joy well up inside, gratitude for the beautiful gift of our friend. I turned and gave my beloved husband a giant hug. And I was just so happy. And it had nothing at all to do with my crushing victory.
Copyright 2013 Meg Matenaer