A Superior Priesthood

Bible Study – November 16th 2018 – 32nd  Sunday in Ordinary Time

Opening Prayer – from the Divine Mercy

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

For the sake of his sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

 

For a number of weeks, the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews has been on the priesthood of Jesus.  This has been presented as superior to the Jewish priesthood of those times.  The letter was written to a Christian Church of Jewish believers and the letter considers themes those Jewish believers would be familiar with, such as the Levitical priesthood established by Moses on God’s instructions in the old testament.  The job of this priesthood was to offer animal sacrifices on behalf of the people to take away their sins, albeit temporarily.  In the time of Moses their duties were centred on a portable temple called the Tabernacle and after Solomon their duties were centred on the Temple in Jerusalem.

In Exodus 3: 6 – God speaks to Moses from the burning bush;

“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”

In Genesis 32: 26-29 – Jacob is given the name Israel by God.

From Jacob come twelve sons who form the twelve tribes of Israel;

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher  (Genesis 35:23-26)

Moses and Aaron, his brother, are of the tribe of Levi and from the tribe of Levi come the priests of Israel serving the other tribes.  (Numbers Ch 3)

From the tribe of Judah comes David and his line of kings.  Jesus, from his genealogy in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, is of the tribe of Judah and often referred to as “Son of David”.

We often refer to Jesus as “Prophet, Priest and King”.  We can see that he is the messiah, the promised King of David’s royal line.  We can see that he is prophet by the way he speaks into peoples’ situations, as he does with the women at the well. (John 4: 20)  But how can he be priest when he is of the tribe of Judah and not of the tribe of Levi?

In answer we had it two weeks ago in the second reading from the letter to the  Hebrews 5:1-6, when the writer referred us to an earlier priesthood and a superior one.  That is the priesthood of Melchizedek.  Melchizedek was King of Salem (peace) and Priest of God Most High – he was both Priest and King, and he was acknowledged by Abraham.  He brought a sacrifice of bread and wine and received a tithe from Abraham.  (Genesis 14:17-20)  This is the only time we hear of him, he is a man without beginning or end.  (Hebrews 7: 1-3)  He is a type of Christ, he prefigures and points to Jesus.

On Sunday in the second reading the writer to the Hebrews reaches a liturgical peak.

Hebrews 9:24-28 – It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf.  And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have to suffer over and over again since the world began.  Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself.  Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will be not to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

 

A superior priesthood indeed.

 

Let’s see what the catechism has to say;

CCC1544 – Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfilment in Christ Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men.” (1 Tim 2:5)  The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek”,  (Heb 5:10, 6:20;  Gen 14:18)  “holy, blameless, unstained,”  (Heb 7:26)  “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,”  (Heb 10:14)  that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

CCC1545 – The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church.  The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ’s priesthood:  “Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers.”

CCC1546 – Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.”  (Rev 1:6, 5:9-10; 1 Peter 2:5-9)  The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly.  The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet and king.  Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be …. a holy priesthood.

 

Jesus dies for us, he takes our sins and gives us his righteousness.  He also gives us his Sonship, making us heirs with him and that’s not all;

He loves us and has washed away our sins with His blood, and made us a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to Him then be glory and power for ever and ever.  Revelation 1:6

What Jesus has, he gives to us.

What Jesus is, he shares with us.

 

 

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