Opening the Word: Three offices of Christ

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of writing the study guide for Father Robert Barron’s new video series, “Priest, Prophet, King,” from the Word on Fire apostolate. Father Barron is a tremendous theologian and teacher, and I think this series is very important for the simple reason that the more we learn about who Jesus Christ really is, the better disciples and evangelists we can become for the glory of God and his Church.

Studying the three-fold office of Christ as priest, prophet and king leads to a deeper, richer understanding of several things: the Old Testament, the mission of Christ, and how each Catholic, by virtue of baptism, participates in the work of Christ. “Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king,” states, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them” (CCC, No. 783).

Those three offices are found in today’s readings, beginning with the office of prophet. The reading from the prophet Jeremiah is, at first glance, rather disconcerting. “You duped me, O Lord,” explains Jeremiah, “and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.” Jeremiah’s raw honesty might surprise us, especially if we think the prophets were docile, detached instruments meant to prophesy future events. But the Old Testament prophets — think of Moses, Elijah, Hosea — had intensely personal relationships with God; they had a most unique relationship especially with the words of God.

As Jeremiah said, “I must cry out!” Why? Because the name and word of God is “like fire burning in my heart ...” The prophets only warned of doom and destruction in order to restore God’s people to true life. That, of course, is the message and work of the last and perfect prophet, Jesus Christ.

Today’s Gospel highlights an essential point about the kingship of Christ. While many Jews hoped for a Davidic king who would reestablish political rule and a physical empire, Jesus revealed that he would rule through suffering, sacrifice and sanctity. This, however, was difficult for Peter and the disciples to comprehend and accept. Peter, who had rightly declared the true identity of Jesus (Mt 16:16) was shocked by Jesus’ prophecy of his approaching Passion. In rebuking Jesus, Peter set himself against the kingship of Christ, embracing the expectations of the world. And so he, in return, was strongly rebuked.

The lesson for us, explained Benedictine monk Adrian Nocent, is that “even our very way of understanding Jesus must change, so that we will see him as he really is and not as we would like him to be.” The Kingdom of God comes not through military or political might, but through the power of the cross.

And that sacrifice is directly connected to the work of Christ as priest; he alone “high priest and unique mediator,” who has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father” (CCC, No. 1546). Offer yourselves as “a living sacrifice,” St. Paul told the Christians in Rome, “holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” The true disciple of Christ lives for God and for others, not being conformed to passing fads and falsehoods, but transformed through grace and the Holy Spirit.

Carl E. Olson is the editor of Catholic World Report.