The Presentation of the Lord
(Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-32)
Not just in present times have priests given scandal to the people. Aaron, Moses’ brother and high priest of Israel, fashioned the golden calf as an object of worship. In this case the people might not have been scandalized, but certainly Moses was. Moses burned the idols, ground its remains, and forced the people to consume them. Later, Hophni and Phineas, the priest sons of the high priest Eli, took undue portions of the people’s sacrifices for themselves. But, of course, not all priests are bad. In any case they perform the necessary service of offering sacrifice for the sins of the people. Today’s feast celebrates Jesus Christ as the supreme high priest of God.
In the gospel Jesus is seen entering the Temple of God, his rightful sanctuary as high priest. In time he will offer the perfect sacrifice – his own body and blood for the salvation of the world. The Letter to the Hebrews especially alludes to this act in today’s reading. He is named “the merciful and faithful high priest” who suffered “to expiate the sins of the people.”
Through our incorporation in the body of Christ we participate in Jesus’ priestly sacrifice. When we pray, deny ourselves for Jesus’ sake, or assist the needy, our sacrifice joins Jesus’ death on the cross. We then become priests with Jesus. Our good works help him make up for the sins of all.