I have always been annoyed with theologies that say, “we have to make our faith acceptable to the present time. We need to read the signs of the times.” The reason why I find such thinking suspect is that Jesus was not accepted in His own time. Jesus didn’t try to be accepted in His own time! (that “brood of vipers” thing, and “white-washed sepulcher” thing wasn’t very diplomatic). Not that we, as Christians, should live in a triumphalistic or nasty way. I’m not advocating that. Simply put, we as Christians are set apart from the world, just as Christ was set apart from the world. Let’s not forget that the world did not recognize Him as Son of God when He came (and still does not today). He was crucified in this world.
But, it was through that setting apart for sacrifice that Jesus has conquered the world! We, too, are not called to be accomodationists. We are called to be consecrated. The Father’s will is that we be consecrated. What does it mean to be consecrated? Consecrated means, literally, to be set apart from the rest. It means to be dedicated towards a certain purpose.
In Catholic life, we associate “consecration” with the Eucharistic prayer of the priest at the altar. The consecration, we are taught, is the moment when the bread and wine are substantially changed into the True Presence of Jesus in sacramental form. When the priest says the words of Consecration “This is my Body”, the change occurs.
But, what are the “words of consecration” anyhow? Are they “magical words” that zap bread and change it? The words “hocus pocus”, used in magic (think the bunny from “Frosty the Snowman”) are actually a slur against the words of consecration in Latin “hoc est enim corpus meum”. No, the words of consecration are not magic, even though the words may be said to have “power” in them. The words of consecration are the words of Jesus Himself, spoken through His minister, the Priest. With these words, “This is my Body”, Jesus sets Himself apart for the Cross. He is the new Passover Lamb. He is set apart to atone for our sins.
We, too, are consecrated and set apart. The Priest is consecrated at his ordination, set apart to offer the sacraments. When the Priest says “This is my Body”, Jesus’ words become his words; his words become Jesus’ words. The Priest and Christ are speaking with one voice, set apart to offer the same sacrifice of the Cross that saves us.
Truth be told, we are all consecrated at our Baptism, sealed by the Sacred Chrism placed on the crown of our heads. That same Chrism is placed on the foreheads of the Confirmed, and the hands of the Priest. This anointing is a sign of the spiritual truth that we are all set apart from the world, to bring Jesus’ Gospel of forgiveness into the world.
You and I do not belong to the world anymore than Jesus belonged to the world. Yet, we are in the world! Why? That is the question of Holy Week. May the Lord reveal to you in these holy days that you are consecrated. But also, may He reveal to you how He wishes to send you into the world, that it might be transformed in Christ.
But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts of the Apostles 1:6)