At the heart of the Church's life - and hence at the heart of every priest's life and ministry - is the Mass, the Eucharistic sacrifice, in which Christ is the one who offers the sacrifice and the sacrifice that is offered. Or, as one of the Easter season's Prefaces says somewhere, he is priest, altar, and lamb of sacrifice. In our conference today, our retreat director focused on our identification of ourselves with Christ both as priest and as victim. He stressed that we must interiorly appropriate the truth that to offer Christ to the Father we must also die with him, and that the way to be incorporated into Christ's resurrection and glorification is incorporation into his death.
So the particular virtue stressed today was mortification - not the seasonal mortification we associate, for example, with Lent - but the ongoing daily death to the old self. He suggested asking oneself in the daily examen, "How much of today has been about me? And tomorrow, how can I be more about Jesus and his spouse, the Church, especially the flock entrusted to me? How can I enter into the joys and sorrows of my flock and so let them shape me more and more?"
"How much of today has been about me?" We've all used the familiar phrase, when discussing our reactions to this or that in ministry or community life, that it's not about me (or about you, or whoever). But taking seriously the real and full implications of that challenge to such self-regarding preoccupation is something else again. The temptation is always present - and very strong - to interpret everything through the prism of me - my needs, my wants, my hopes, my pains. When one adds to that a troubled history and a sense of grievance, the result can be spiritually toxic - as I have often experienced.
This retreat is inviting me to identify more meaningfully with Christ as sacrificial victim, so as to be shaped into a more perfect priest for his Church.