Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 7:25-8:6; Mark 3:7-12)

A marvelous book written by theologian Jaroslav Pelikan describes eighteen models for considering Jesus. Jesus through the Centuries pictures Jesus as rabbi, king, liberator, and in fifteen other ways.  Tellingly, however, it does not see him as priest.  Although people may be hesitant about seeing Jesus with this image, it is a central focus of the Letter to the Hebrews.  Today’s passage from the letter gives several reasons for thinking of Jesus as a priest like no other.

The Letter asserts that Jesus lives forever.  Whether one is an early Christian suffering persecution or a twenty-first century American facing religious indifference, Jesus always pleads to the Father on his or her behalf.  The Letter also hints here, and states elsewhere, that Jesus has experienced pain and will make known to the Father how humans feel.  Also, the Letter emphasizes that Jesus’ perfection carries two advantages.   First, his sacrifice of self has no blemish so that it pleases the Father like no other.  Second, he can focus on others’ needs without having to worry about his own sins.  Finally, Jesus occupies a sanctuary so close to the Almighty Father that his intercessions cannot be ignored.

The difficulty we have in seeing Christ as priest may be the idea that his sacrifice paid the debt of human sin.  We do not like to think of God as a magistrate who demands payment for our crimes.  Let us recall, however, that if God is the judge demanding payment, He is also the one who pays our debt. Out of love He took human form and then died on a cross to satisfy the injury to creation caused by our sin.  Because of this satisfaction we can live with justice.