The priestly ministry is a ministry of reconciliation. In the Sacrament of Baptism it leads us, through the admonitions of faith, to a fundamental reconciliation with the living God so that we no longer regard him and his world as a threat, but recognize their foundation in love. It is the priest’s role to make God’s gifts present to us and to associate us with these gifts in such a way that, as the Canon of the Mass puts it, we ourselves become a gift together with him. It is he who is permitted to offer the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in which the things of this world become a glorification of God and new life arises from this sacrifice. He is called not only to speak of God, but to speak with him for all of us and to open to us the highest of all possibilities of human speech – that our words become a conversation with the living God.
In addition to the ministry of the Gospel – or rather included in it – there is also the ministry of the sacraments, of those signs in which today the Lord, as it were, not only still touches our senses and speaks to our intellect and thoughts, to the innermost depths of our hearts, but shows himself as well in the sensuous beauty of the things of this world so that they become places in which we touch his life.
One might ask at this point: Is not all this sacraments, word, Eucharist, Baptism, penance, prayer – a too exclusively Christian concept? Is it not too manifestly a flight from the great afflictions of this world? Amid all the destruction and threats in a world whose very structure is unjust are there not more pressing and more important things to be done? Is it not necessary, first of all, to change the world to its very foundation before we take time for all that? To this question, too, the prayer over the offerings gives us the answer when it says: “All this is done for the salvation of the world.” It is not just a pious preoccupation with self in which a community affirms itself and seeks a small oasis of happiness apart from the miseries of daily life.
From: Roman homilies, March 17, 1985