Wednesday, January 20, 2011

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 7:1-3.15-17; Mark 3:1-6)

The word tithe originally meant just tenth although today we think of it exclusively as a tenth of what one earns. Of course, pastors like to think of the tithe, ten percent of a family’s income, as the appropriate amount for its church donation. In the reading from Hebrews today we find a biblical antecedent for the directive.

It should be noted, first, that the passage does not pretend to counsel churchgoers about their offerings. Rather it tries to establish Jesus’ foundation as the eternal high priest in three ways. First, like the mysterious Melchizedek, his origins have no beginning or end. What is more, as the father of faith Abraham honors the priest Melchizedek with his tithe so Jesus through his death on the cross deserves our confidence. Finally, in the gospels Jesus is called “the Prince of Peace” and preaches nonviolence; likewise, the name Melchizedek means “King of Peace” and the person – a presumably rival king -- comes and goes amicably.

We can count on Jesus. He is as wise as the ages and will never do us harm. But there is much more reason to trust him. He has shown his love for us by dying on the cross. What happened afterwards proves that it was neither a foolish gesture nor an inconsequential sacrifice. In raising Jesus from the dead, the Father has indicated our destiny if we abide by him.