August 2, 2015
The Lord commands Moses to “go to the people and have them sanctify themselves today and tomorrow” (Exodus 19:10). The RSVCE translation of the Bible says “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow.” The lectionary chose to omit the following verses but reading them might help us understand the meaning of “consecrate” and “sanctify”. “Now, if you obey me completely and keep my covenant, you will be my treasured possession among all peoples, though all the earth is mine. You will be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Ex 19:5-6).
A kingdom of priests. That was the calling of Israel and that is our calling, the new Israel with the Gentiles who have been incorporated into the Body of Christ, the Church.
The call of the laity in the Church is to exercise the royal priesthood, the universal priesthood of all believers. All priests exercise their office by offering sacrifice. The royal priesthood of the laity is fed and nurtured by the ministerial priesthood who offer the perfect sacrifice of Christ at every Holy Mass.
So what is the unique sacrifice of the laity? They offer the world to God (see Lumen gentium 34). The laity, living in the world, find the parts of the world that have not been set apart for God and lay their hands on them invoking the Holy Spirit to make them holy. This is done by touching, with tender and reconciling love, any pain, fear, and ignorance in the world and in our hearts. In a way, what we have touched in the world, when we touch it with the Love of God alive in us, is consecrated in our hearts.
The laity, part of the royal priesthood, then “lift up their hearts” to God at Holy Mass. They ask God, through the action of his ministerial priests, to consecrate the bread and wine joined with their own lifted up hearts, to become the real presence and glorified life of the Risen Lord Jesus.
Christ Jesus fulfills the calling of the Israelites in his Body the Church. “You will be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.” And he sends the laity out in a unique way to consecrate the world to him by their holy actions.