The sheen of Catholic priesthood in our time has lost its luster. Catholic priesthood needs re-imagining and re-rooting. This book offers a Scripture and history-based approach for renewed understanding of the only priesthood the Catholic Church recognizes, that of Jesus, the Christ.
In what sense is Jesus a priest? What is his priesthood? What does it mean for our time? What really is the role of a person baptized as a priest in Christ or ordained ‘priest’ in the Catholic Church? What is the value and function of an ordained priest’s presence in today’s Church and world?
I root my analysis and response to those questions in two oft-repeated but seldom explored phrases in the Scriptures: “order of Melchizedek” and “Do this in memory of me.” Neither of those phrases appear often in the Bible, but both are regularly used in Catholic talk of Jesus as a priest and in Catholic liturgical prayer. Both phrases have profound significance regarding Jesus’ priesthood and what Catholic priests’ meaning, role, and mission should be today.
The first phrase presents Jesus as a priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” only. Persons baptized and ordained in Christ continue the exercise of Jesus’ priesthood only by “doing this in memory of him.” What does “the order of Melchizedek” mean? What are priests, baptized and ordained, to “do”? What’s the “this”? What are we to remember about Jesus?
The Catholic priesthood’s loss of sheen in our time is due in part to our failure to remember that Jesus was and is a priest in only one sense: “according to the order of Melchizedek.” “Melchizedek” is the name of a biblical figure referenced rarely in the Scriptures, but that reference captures the deep, distinctive meaning of Jesus’ priesthood and that of anyone who is either baptized or ordained into him. Without those roots, Catholic priesthood has wandered into a too-often distorted embodiment and exercise of Jesus’ priesthood. For many it has become more of an institutional role than a Gospel way of life. One result today is a clericalism that infects both baptized and ordained Catholic persons.
All those baptized in Christ and all those ordained in Christ are priests in him only “according to the order of Melchizedek.” Ordained priesthood exists only to sustain and intensify the Melchizedekian priesthood of Jesus in the baptized. All are to “do” both the eucharistic ritual Jesus established but also its meaning, reminding both priests and faithful to remember Jesus’ way of life and to live it. Jesus embodies that meaning, Pope Francis exemplifies it, and this book attempts to explain it.
My approach re-roots priesthood as a way of life rather than as an institutional role. It offers an antidote to clericalism. It hopes to help restore the luster of Catholic priesthood and respect for it by grounding and profiling Jesus as priest for our time according to the order of Melchizedek.
Read Jesus as Priest for Our Time by Bob Bonnot.