Memorial of Saint Agnes, virgin and martyr
(Hebrews 5:7:1-3.15-17; Mark 3:1-6)
Much like Paul Bunyan of American folklore, Melchizedek is a shadowy figure in Scripture. He visited Abraham in the Book of Genesis, is mentioned in the psalms as an eternal priest, and makes an appearance in the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews that is read in today’s mass.
Melchizedek, both the king and priest of Salem, serves as a prototype for Christ in the eyes of the author of Hebrews. The name is interpreted as meaning “my king is righteousness.” He is also called the “king of Salem” which may be translated as “king of peace.” Thus associated with the epitome of justice and peace, Melchizedek prefigures Jesus, who suffered death rather than betray righteousness or violate peace. Being presented both priest and king, Melchizedek again is set as a model for Jesus who sacrificed himself for the people for whom he also served as the anointed Messiah.
The Letter to the Hebrews has been noted for its balanced Christology which views Jesus as equally God and man. We may miss in it the references to everyday life found in Paul’s epistles. Yet we find an elegance in its verses and a boldness in its allusions that bolster our faith in Jesus.