Wednesday 27 February 2013

Easter(n) Promises: The Threefold Office of Christ

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

A couple of weeks ago, I started to read some of the homilies by Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture. I have thoroughly enjoyed his vision and understanding of the importance of culture and communication for the mission of the Church, specially pertaining to the new evangelization. He sees culture as something that unites people as well as an encounter with the Word of God which leads to communion, solidarity and dialogue.

In his writings and tweets (@CardRavasi_en), he often refers to our mission as coming from our baptismal promises – our Easter promises. He states that we must integrate our Christian identity into all of life. That identity has authenticity in Christ. We are baptized into Christ, and through baptism we enter into his threefold office: We are called to share in his priestly, prophetic and kingly office (CCC 897).

As I read Cardinal Ravasi's homilies, I found references to these offices and I turned them into tweets (@sayochia):

A priest offers prayers for himself and for others. He is a sign of hope and of service. This is one of our baptismal promises.

The prophets revealed abuses of power and spoke against injustice. That is one of our baptismal promises.

It is a kingly act to assist the fallen. This is one of our baptismal promises.

These insights have remained with me for the last couple of weeks. They have inspired me to write a short story about three friends in Constantinople who, because of their great love for God and for his people, were anointed as priest, prophet and king respectively. This is the Cliff Notes version of how they lived their mission.

The priest, Justin, was called to offer prayers, to celebrate the sacraments and to serve the people with love. He loved his vocation, but struggled with lust. The loneliness of his heart filled him with lustful desire and wretched gloom. He started to doubt whether he could live his vocation and struggled to believe that God could use him to transform bread and wine into his body and blood. He stopped praying and was filled with hopelessness.

The prophet's vocation was to teach and to speak against injustice. Josef loved the poor and longed for greater simplicity in his life. Yet, as he met with the rich and powerful of the land to called them on their abuses, he found himself enjoying the comfort of their mansions and the lavish feasts they prepared. He found himself coveting their possessions and their status – he struggled with greed. He began to doubt whether he was a good prophet and question God's capacity to speak through him. He thought of himself a false prophet, someone who could not speak a good, life-giving word and should therefore remain silent.

The king's calling was to care for his people and to assist those in need. Like the Good King Wenceslaus, Michael braved harsh weather to give alms; he wanted to govern his people wisely. But to him, that meant working long and laborious days. He took himself too seriously, and he struggled with pride. He felt that he was the best and the only solution for his people's problems. His pride led him to think that he could accomplish all things on his own. He wrestled with his arrogance and did not believe that God could use such a proud king to serve the lowly and the fallen.

Despite all these, their love for God and his people was greater than their lust, greed and pride. And God's love for them was even greater. He used their weaknesses to make them strong. He used their friendship to transform their sorrow into joy, and their despair into hope. He fulfilled his purpose for them (Ps 138:8)

In writing their story, I wrote my story, your story, and our story. We are called by God into greater life. He calls us to fulfil the offices of priest, prophet and king. The fulfilment of these offices is part of our baptismal promises. These promises are not only pledges that we make before God; they are promises that God makes to us: I will bring you greater life – I will call you into right relationship with me and my people through your prayers, prophecies and service.

But at times we doubt his Easter promises. We struggle with lust, greed and pride. We forget that we are called to praise, reverence and serve God (Spiritual Exercises, 23). We experience desolation – a decrease in faith, hope and love – and we become fixated with the thoughts and feelings that bring us down. Yet God continues to speak life and joy into our lives: “You are my beloved daughter. You are my beloved son. I am well pleased in you.”

The Lord is calling us to pay attention to the many things that bring us down and draw us away from God in this Lenten Season. He calls us to fight the good fight and to resist lustful, greedy and proud desires. He gives us comfort and speaks life through our families and friends. Through baptism, he made an eternal promise to us: You will talk the walk and walk the talk. The talk is praise, reverence and service. The walk is prayers, justice and love.


  1. Dude, is that your pick for Pope? I think you should totally post the whole story - Cliff Notes are for lazy people.
    Also,it is very hard for me to actually take these offices seriously because of how male-biased they are. How can I fulfill offices that are only for men?

  2. Ana,
    I like him. I have no picks for Pope. The Holy Spirit will take care of that. I only pray the Cardinals acquire enough spiritual freedom to let the Spirit guide them.
    My poems and stories are private, so I will not post it, but I can email you the story.
    The offices are not gender specific. They are realities more than appointments or functions. They can be fulfilled by both men and women. Every single one of those offices is an invitation to a specific aspect of our mission as denizens of the Kingdom of God.
    We are all - male and female - called to participate in the sanctification, teaching and governance of the Church. We are all called to exercise ministry. We have all been empowered to collaborate and to the best of out ability to be a light to all nations. Lay people are not mere passive members of the Church. All of you bring the fulfillment of those offices to areas that are unique and suitable to each of you. There specific aspects of your vocation need the fulfillment of that threefold office and the Church calls you to be bring the light of Christ to those areas of the world and of your life. That is how you evangelize. That is how you help praise and sanctify; how you teach and live justly; how you govern and assist the fallen.