Immersed in Christ: January 21, 2021
Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr
Hebrews 7:25 to 8:6; Psalm 40; Mark 3:7-12
“Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will.”
Hebrews concludes from all this:
The law made nothing perfect; but Jesus has given us a better hope, that of having access to God. Accordingly Jesus is our assurance of a better covenant.
Jesus holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.1
The one interceding for us is one of us, human, like ourselves, but not just a human priest. He has “no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people.” He is “holy, blameless, undefiled... exalted above the heavens.” He only needed to offer one sacrifice, “once for all when he offered himself.” To understand that sacrifice is to understand Jesus as Priest and the mystery of our redemption.
The mystery of Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice is that we died in him. This is a fundamental truth of our faith, one we do not sufficiently explain. Saturday’s reading will declare that Jesus “entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” The significance of this is not just that Jesus’ blood was “worth more.” It is that, being God-made-human, Jesus was able to incorporate us into his body, make our bodies — with our whole selves and all of our sins — part of his body. Our flesh became his flesh. Our sins became his sins. He was “made sin” for us. Because of this, when he shed his blood in death, we died in him and our sins went down into the grave. And were annihilated. They are no longer part of our history. Jesus does not just “forgive,” he “takes away” the sins of the world. This is what it means to be “Lamb of God.”
This is “the main point” of Hebrews: “We have such a high priest, one seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty.” Jesus does not just intercede for the world. He has taken away the sins of the world. Once and for all.
The Church calls Eucharist the “source and summit” of our Christian life, of all we believe. But the source of what we hear and say in Eucharist is the word of God in Scripture. If we will just listen during the Liturgy of the Word and reflect afterwards (remember, the purpose of the readings is to “promote meditation”), then we will grow into deep appreciation of the Mass and of the whole mystery of our redemption.2
Meditation: 1. What is the difference between Christ dying for us and us dying in him? 2. How do I offer myself as “priest in the Priest” at Mass?
1 Hebrews 7:18-25, adapted, using the New Jerusalem Bible and the Christian Community Bible (in English: Ligouri and Claretian Publications 17th editon 1995; in Spanish: San Pablo and Editorial Verbo Divino, 61st edition, 2005). 2 General Instruction on the Roman Missal, 2000, no. 56. For “source and summit,” see the Documents of Vatican II: the Eucharistic Sacrifice is: • “the source and summit of the Christian life” (The Church, no. 11); • “the source and summit of all preaching of the Gospel”; • “the other sacraments, as well as every ministry of the Church and every work of the apostolate, are linked with the holy Eucharist and are directed toward it; • the most blessed Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual life” (Ministry and Life of Priests, no. 5); •the Mass is “the center and culmination of the whole life of the Christian community” (Bishops Pastoral Office, no. 30); • “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the source from which all her power flows” (On the Sacred Liturgy, no. 10); • “the Church grows through persistent participation in the Eucharistic mystery” (On Divine Revelation, no. 26).