In a few weeks there is a workshop at St. Patrick Seminary, in Menlo Park, California, entitled, "Reclaiming and Renewing our Mission." It is for priests, concerning priestly ministry. It sounds tempting, but I will be gone for two weeks in the Fall for workshops, so I probably won't go. But the title intrigues me. Lately the idea of returning to our priestly roots has held great importance for me, especially in our Church today.
I was especially keenly aware of our ministry after reading excerpts from the Christian Unity Conference, held in Tampa, Florida, some weeks ago. Some of us remember the the term 'ecumenism' with all sorts of varied emotions. For many years, and in many forms, the Church has worked to bring forward unity amongst all Christian churches. It would seem that at the local church level, there have been many ventures which draw us together. Food pantries, Habitat for Humanity, PADS, Ecumenical prayer services, just to name a few. But there are some major theological points which keep us at an unhealthy distance.
All Easter we have spoken about the sacrament of Baptism. For all Christians this is the foundational sacrament which draws us into the union of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Through Baptism we participate in the paschal mystery. This should always be our starting point. Of course the question remains for us, where do we go from here. Cardinal Walter Kasper has invited all interested parties to look carefully at our commitment to unity with an honest assessment of where we stand today. Moreso he challenges us to look at the major issues which cause separation with a sense of honest charity. In the paschal mystery we will discover more of which brings us together than keeps us apart.
Going back to our priestly mission then, our call is to teach, preach, and sanctify. Our witness as priests, and in a larger sense as a Church, is to give a witness to all that we have seen and heard. Jesus prayed that all be one in him. We pray that we can be a sign of unity and an instrument of peace.