Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time

Hebrews 7:22-8:6
Psalm 40
Mark 3:7-12

REFLECTION: "We Participate in His Sacrifice"

Let's step back for a moment to our first reading, from the seventh and eighth chapter of Hebrews. In chapter eight, verse three, we read these words:

...since every high priest is required to offer gifts and sacrifices, our High Priest must make an offering, too. 

Now, my gut instinct tells me that most of us here can identify the offering that Jesus makes as High Priest. If, in your thoughts, your assumption is that the offering is his suffering and death upon the cross, you're wrong. Or, perhaps to put it a bit more circumspectly, you're only half right. 

Do you notice the parallelism that dominates the reading? The concept that the earthly temple, established in the Old Testament law, a temple that the recipients of this letter would have been quite flamiliar with, is a shadow, an image, of the heavenly? 

Now, Christ's sacrifice, made once for all upon the cross, is full and complete; yes! But, when we leave it at that, we miss out on something very important.

You see, when the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, which is the Temple's shadow of the immediate presence of God, the priest did not bring in a live animal and slay it there. No. He slayed the animal outside, and brought the blood into that most holy space. There he pled the blood... offering it to cover his sins, and the sins of the people.

Jesus, therefore, when he enters into the Holy of Holies, the true Holy of Holies, is not going up to be re-sacrificed, but to plead his sacrifice, to offer it, as what the Bible describes as a propitiation, or perfect offering, for our sins.

In turn, when we gather to celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as we await his return, he is pleading his eternally efficacious sacrifice for us! And, through the Sacraments, the power of that sacrifice comes to us, washing us, strengthening us, and renewing us in faith, for service, and in a depth of refreshment that goes beyond anything we can understand.

So, as we stand here, in this humble earthly sanctuary... what we are doing is empowered, not by mere words, not by timeless religious ritual, but by the eternal sacrifice of Christ Jesus, which even now, and for all eternity, is being presented, pleaded, offered before the Throne. And we, the people redeemed by him, are covered by that pleading, for that sacrifice comes to us here, in this room; not simply in some heaven light years away.


That the people of God may recognize in their lives
the power and effect of Jesus' eternal sacrifice;
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That those who are lost
in pain, anguish, and loneliness
may be given the courage to approach Christ with their burdens,
seeking his peace,
and the consolation of the Spirit;
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That those whose lives are mired in sin,
and who believe there is no hope for redemption,
may see in Christ Jesus an eternal redeemer,
readily present,
and personally concerned with their spiritual state;
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That those with few to care for them
will know the over-whelming love of God
in a powerful, life-giving way;
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the needs and concerns of this congregation...
and for the needs and concerns of our hearts that are known to God alone;
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.