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Pope Francis: “The prayer of a priest has great power”

© Antoine Mekary / ALETEIA
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In his daily homily, the pope reflects on the priesthood of Christ, and the “unforgivable sin”

VATICAN CITY — “The prayer of a priest has great power, especially in the Sacrifice of the Mass,” Pope Francis said on Monday. And as we pray at Holy Mass, Jesus Christ prays for us, “for each one of us,” since “now he is living before the Father to intercede,” that our faith might not falter.

In his homily during Mass, in the chapel of his residence at Santa Marta, the pope reflected on the Letter to the Hebrews (9:15-28), which speaks of the New Covenant which God has established with man in the Redemptive Sacrifice of His Son. Pope Francis reflected on the “three stages” of the priesthood of  Christ who offered Himself as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, now intercedes for us before the Father, and will return to save those who eagerly await him (cf. Hebrews 9:15-28).

The priesthood of Christ is the great marvel, the greatest marvel that makes us sing a new song to the Lord,  the pope said, echoing the scriptures.

Yet he also warned of the “unforgivable blasphemy”: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Three stages of the priesthood of Christ

The priesthood of Christ takes place in three stages, Pope said. The first is the objective Redemption, for while the priests of the Old Covenant had to offer sacrifices every year, “Christ offered Himself, once for all, for the forgiveness of sins.”

With this marvel, “He has brought us to the Father… He has re-created the harmony of creation,” he said.

The second wonder is what the Lord is doing now – that is, praying for us. “While we pray here, He is praying for us” “for each one of us,” Pope Francis emphasized: “now, living, before the Father, He intercedes,” so that the faith might not falter. How often, in fact, are priests asked to pray, the Pope said, because “we know that the prayer of the priest has great power, especially in the Sacrifice of the Mass.”

The third wonder will be when Christ returns, Pope Francis said. But this third time will not be in relation to sin, but rather, it will be “to establish the definitive Kingdom,” when he will save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Heb. 9:28):

“There is this great wonder, this priesthood of Jesus in three stages – that in which He pardons sins, once for all; that in which He intercedes now for us; and that which will occur when He returns. But there is also the contrary: the ‘unforgivable blasphemy.’ It’s hard to hear Jesus saying these things, but He says it, and if He says it, it is true. ‘Amen I say to you, all will be forgiven the children of men’ – and we know that the Lord forgives everything if we open our hearts a bit. Everything! The sins and even the blasphemies they speak – even blasphemies will be pardoned! – but the one who will have blasphemed the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in eternity.”

“The unforgivable blasphemy”

To explain this, the Pope referred to the great priestly anointing of Jesus, which the Holy Spirit accomplished in the womb of Mary; as priests, in the ceremony of ordination, are anointed with oil:

“Even Jesus as the High Priest received this anointing. And. what was the first anointing? The flesh of Mary with the work of the Holy Spirit. And he who blasphemes about this, blasphemes about the foundation of the love of God, which is the redemption, the re-creation; blasphemy about the priesthood of Christ. ‘But the Lord does not forgive that wickedness?’ [you might ask]. ‘No! The Lord forgives everything!’ But one who says these things is closed to forgiveness. He doesn’t want to be forgiven! He doesn’t allow himself to be forgiven! This is the ugliness of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: It does not allow itself to be forgiven, because it denies the priestly anointing of Jesus, accomplished by the Spirit.”

Hearts never closed

The Pope concluded by returning to the great wonders of the priesthood of Christ, and also to the “unforgivable blasphemy” – unforgivable “not because the Lord does not want to forgive everything, but because this [person] is so closed that he does not allow himself to be forgiven: the blasphemy against this wonder of Jesus”:

“Today it would be good for us, during the Mass,” he said, “to consider that here on the altar the living memorial is offered – because He will be present here – of the first priesthood of Jesus, when He offers His life for us”.

“There is also the living memorial of the second priesthood, because He will pray here. But also, in this Mass – we will say it after the Our Father – there is that third priesthood of Jesus, when He will return, and [that is] our hope of glory. In this Mass, let us think about these beautiful things. And let us ask for grace from the Lord that our hearts might never be closed – might never be closed! – to this wonder, to this great, freely-given wonder.”

Text courtesy in part of Vatican Radio.

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