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Jesus’ Priestly Mission

Sacrifice and prayer characterize Jesus’ priestly mission. Jesus through the Holy Spirit offered himself unblemished to God to cleanse us from our woundedness. Heb 9:14. Jesus’ sacrificial offering of himself to the Father reveals the third mission received by Jesus through the Holy Spirit, the other two being his kingly and prophetic mission. While his priestly mission culminated in the sacrifice on the cross, it had unfolded in Jesus’ life of prayer which we will focus on here.

Praying Jesus. We only get brief glimpses at the praying Jesus in short sentences, even scraps of sentences, in the Gospels. Further, what is left unsaid is that it was the Holy Spirit who urged Jesus to pray. Prayer time for Jesus was a time of Jesus’ companionship with the Spirit. It was a time when Jesus was refreshed, drew new strength, became re-created, built himself up to face the upcoming conflicts.

In Luke 5:15ff we read: “Great crowds assembled to listen to him and to be cured of their ailments, BUT he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.” Note that Jesus would not allow himself to be overwhelmed by the crowd and give up his time for prayer. On another occasion, “Jesus departed to the mountain to pray and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself and from them he chose twelve. Luke 6:12ff. It is as though by day Jesus carried out the Spirit’s inspirations he had received at night in prayer.

The Spirit was Jesus’ constant companion. When Jesus went to the mountain and was transfigured before the apostles, his intent was to pray. His transfiguration was the Spirit’s surprise for him. In the supreme moment of offering his life, the Spirit was with Jesus in Gethsemane to sustain him. It was “in the Holy Spirit” that Jesus, “in the days when he was in the flesh offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears”.

All the prayers of Jesus mentioned in the Gospels have one feature in common: he addressed God as Abba, as Father. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa states: “Now we know that it is the Spirit who raises the cry ‘Abba!’ from Jesus’ heart: ‘At that very moment, he rejoiced in the Holy Sprit and said, ‘I give you praise, Father (Abba), Lord of Heaven and earth’”. Luke 10:21. We might reason that it was in Jesus’ prayer time that Jesus searched for his identity and that the Spirit progressively called forth Jesus’ radical faith in God’s love for him and God’s mission for him. The Spirit was the soul of Jesus’ prayer.

Praying Cursillistas. We are called to carry on Jesus’ priestly mission. How? First, we must “spiritualize” our prayer. It should be done “in the Holy Spirit”, as was Jesus’ prayer.St. Paul in Eph6:18 tells us: “With all prayer and supplications, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.” We must spiritualize both our liturgical and private prayer. The liturgy will be either a structured approach that enables people to get through a period of time or it will be a heightened spiritual experience that transforms us through the Spirit who reveals the meaning and significance of Jesus’ words and who unites us in Christian community. The Risen Christ gifts us with the Spirit at Mass! Further, believing deeply that the Spirit is our guide and mentor will dramatically change our private prayer.

Second, we must spiritualize our Cursillo activities of palanca and prayer by performing them with the support of the Spirit. We should also understand that the Spirit through these activities unites us with Jesus who treasured prayer and sacrifice. It is our way of manifesting the Risen Christ within us.

Third, we must spiritualize the relationship between our prayer and our action. We can mechanically pray before an activity or we can pray first and act on what emerges from our prayer. That way we act out of the Spirit’s inspirations.