Christ, our great high priest

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5th in a series of short homilies on the Mass

In the Mass, our Lord Jesus Christ is made truly present to us, in the fullness of his being—in both his divine nature and his human nature—body and blood, soul and divinity. He is made to be here with us—though under sacramental appearance—disguised, as it were, under the appearance of bread and wine. And that presence alone would be enough to make our encounter with him in the Mass the shining center of our day, our week, our entire life.

But that’s just the beginning. For our Lord makes himself present for a purpose—the purpose of drawing us into his one perfect sacrifice: as the great, eternal high priest, offering himself to the Father.

Now, the priesthood is fundamentally a function of mediation. And we see the impulse to seek out a priestly intermediary whenever someone wants to approach a god or gods, but senses that it would be best to have someone help them. Someone who knows God better and how to approach him; someone whom God would prefer to encounter, because of their birth, or personal character, or training. Even today, when our technology has given us so much power over our lives and our environment; and when our egalitarian tendencies make us reluctant to think that someone else could be better than us—even now, if we really want to know the Lord, or we really want some request to be granted, even now we turn to the one that we think is closer and more pleasing to him. That is the impulse to seek a priest.

Who then can best serve as that priest, that intermediary, for us?

In the Old Covenant, among the People of Israel, the men of the Tribe of Levi were set apart to serve as priests. And as the Lord emphasized his own transcendence and holiness, so the priests and Levites had to be set apart for him—chosen and prepared to approach the altar itself, to intercede on behalf of the people, and to speak his word to them.

In the New Testament, the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of Christ as the great high priest, surpassing all the priests of the Old Covenant. Why is Christ the perfect, eternal high priest? Why is Christ clearly the supreme choice whom you would want as your intermediary as you seek to approach God?

  • First, because in his very being he is both God and man. Perfect mediation occurs within his very being, his very Incarnation.
  • He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, having been similarly tested in every way. (4:14)
  • He is the Son of God the Father, higher than all the angels, seated at the right hand of the Father. (ch. 1; 10:12)
  • As he says in the Gospels, he knows the Father (Matt 11:27); he has seen the Father (John 6:46); he and the Father are one (John 10:30); and he is the way to the Father (John 14:6). The Father always hears him (John 11:41-42).
  • He is without sin. (4:14)
  • He does not offer the blood of bulls and goats; he offers himself. (9:11-14)
  • He did not enter an earthly sanctuary that is a copy of the heavenly one; he entered the heavenly sanctuary itself. (9:11-12)

In the Mass, our Lord Jesus makes himself present in his supreme act of priesthood, offering himself as the one perfect sacrifice—so that we can not only be present, but can enter in, sharing in his own office of priest.

In the words of the Letter to the Hebrews (10:19-22):

Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,” let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.


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