Letter of Saint John Paul II, on the occasion of Holy Thursday of the year 1994

Dear mothers, on the occasion of this Holy Thursday, in which we remember the Institution of the Eucharist and the Priestly Order, I share with you a part of Pope St. John Paul II’s letter to priests, from 1994[1].
 

“Today we meet one another in the celebration of the Eucharist, in which, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, is contained the whole spiritual treasure of the Church (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 5). As we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist in the Liturgy of Holy Thursday, we see very clearly what Christ has left us in this wondrous Sacrament: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). In a sense, these words of Saint John contain the whole truth about the Eucharist: the truth which is at the same time the heart of the truth about the Church. In a certain sense the Church is daily born from the Eucharist, celebrated in so many places all over the world, in so many different situations, among such diverse cultures, and so the re-enactment of the Eucharistic Mystery becomes as it were a daily “creation”. Thanks to the celebration of the Eucharist, the evangelical awareness of the People of God grows ever more profound, both in nations of age-old Christian tradition and among peoples who have only recently entered the new dimension imparted to human culture in all times and places by the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, and by the mystery of the Redemption accomplished by his Death on the Cross and his Resurrection…

For us priests the Priesthood is the supreme gift, a particular calling to share in the mystery of Christ, a calling which confers on us the sublime possibility of speaking and acting in his name. Every time we offer the Eucharist, this possibility becomes a reality. We act “in persona Christi” when, at the moment of the consecration, we say the words: “This is my Body which will be given up for you… This is the cup of my Blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me”. We do precisely this: with deep humility and profound thanks. This exalted yet simple action of our daily mission as priests opens up our humanity, so to speak, to its furthermost limits..

We share in the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, “the first-born of all creation” (Col 1:15), who in the Eucharist restores to the Father the whole of creation: the world of the past and the world of the future, and above all the world of today. In this world he lives with us, he is present through us, and precisely through us he offers to the Father the Sacrifice of our Redemption. We share in the mystery of Christ, “the first-born from the dead” (Col 1:18), who by his Passover unceasingly transforms the world, bringing it ever closer to “the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19).

In this way the whole of reality, in all its aspects, becomes present in our Eucharistic ministry, which at the same time embraces every concrete personal need, all suffering, expectation, joy or sadness, in accordance with the intentions which the faithful present for Holy Mass. We receive these intentions in a spirit of charity, thus introducing every human problem into the dimension of universal Redemption.

This ministry forms a new life in us and around us. The Eucharist evangelizes our surroundings and confirms us in the hope that Christ’s words will not pass away (cf. Lk 21:33). His words will remain, for they are rooted in the Sacrifice of the Cross: we are special witnesses and privileged ministers of the permanence of this truth and of God’s love.

All of this strengthens us in the conviction that our ministry of the Gospel becomes fruitful through the power of the Eucharist. As Jesus said to his Apostles at the Last Supper: “No longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends…. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:15-16).”

Let us pray that each of our Priests may live even more deeply the sublimity of the gift constituted by the Priesthood of Christ.

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