[Ordinary of the Mass]
[Mass Text - Latin]
[Mass Text - English]
Christ, having become an high priest of the good things to come…. by his
own blood, entered once into the holies, having obtained eternal
The Scripture readings this
morning present us with two extremely important truths of our
Faith—things which God wants us to know, and understand, and believe.
The first is in Saint Paul’s
Epistle to the Hebrews, of which we read but a few verses from chapter
9. This is another one of those chapters you might want to go home and
read in its entirety. Paul starts out by describing the sacrificial
worship conducted by the Old Testament priests, the sons of Aaron (the
brother of Moses), in the Temple at Jerusalem.
The Temple, you may know, was
like a set of boxes, each one smaller and inside the one before. Pretty
much anyone was allowed to enter the outer box, Jewish laymen could
enter into the next box, then there was one for only the priests, and
finally a veiled area at the center called the “Holy of Holies” where
God Himself dwelt and which only the high priest could enter, and then
only once a year. Outside of the Holy of Holies was an altar on which
animals—goats and oxen, and young cows called “heifers”—were sacrificed
to God in adoration and for the forgiveness of sins. The animals were
valuable to those who offered them, but, of course, they were imperfect
offerings to place before the God of the Universe.
Saint Paul tells us that Jesus
Christ became the “high priest of the new covenant and by his own blood,
entered once into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption.”
Jesus was much more than the priests of the Old Testament—indeed, as the
incarnate Son of God, He was the perfect priest, for a priest is a
mediator between God and man, and Jesus was both God and man. He was
also the perfect victim—being infinitely more precious to God than all
the animals and men that ever existed: “how much more shall the blood
of Christ, who, by the Holy Ghost, offered himself without spot to God,
cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?”
Those of you who went home last
week and read the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel know that our
Lord promised to give us His body and blood so that we might have
everlasting life. As you take part in the ceremonies of Holy Week you
will hear several accounts of the Last Supper, where He gave His true
body and true blood sacramentally under the appearances of bread and
wine, followed by His sacrifice on the Cross. You will also hear that
He made His Apostles priests, with the power to offer His sacramental
sacrifice and to forgive the sins of future generations.
I urge you to attend as many of
the Holy Week Masses as you can, each time pondering the intimate
connection between the Altar and the Cross.
Today’s Gospel is likewise
important, for in it, Jesus acknowledges that He is God, the eternal Son
of the Father.
The Jews already knew of God’s eternal existence. When Moses asked who
it was that was sending him to lead the Jews out of Egypt: “God said to
Moses: I AM WHO AM…. Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE
WHO IS, hath sent me to you.” Later, philosophers like Saint Thomas
Aquinas, would explain that “God’s essence is existence,”
that God is the one necessary existent Being, without Whom nothing else
could exist. But for the people of Moses’ and Jesus’ time, “I AM WHO
AM” was quite sufficient.
The grammar is significant. “I
am” is what we call the “present tense”—it describes things as they are
now. “I am hot,” “I am cold,” but in the past I have not always been
hot, or always cold—and I know not what the future will bring. But God
is the one absolutely unchanging existence, who speaks about Himself in
an “eternal now.” For God there is no past, present, and future—for
time itself is God’s creation—for God there is only the “eternal now,”
in which He knows Himself as “HE WHO IS.”
So, when Jesus, who was not even
fifty years old, said: “before Abraham was made, I am,” it was clear to
His listeners that He was asserting His divinity. That is why they
picked up rocks—because they couldn’t believe this man was God—they
would have put Him to death if He had not hidden in the Temple.
But as Catholics, we know the
truth. As the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus existed from all
eternity with the Father and the Holy Ghost. They existed together
before anything had been made—time and space had not yet been created.
All three Persons existed as pure spirit, and only when the Archangel
Gabriel received the consent of the Blessed Virgin did the Holy Ghost
“overshadow” her in order to conceive the man Jesus Christ,
hypostatically united to the Second Person. “The Holy Ghost shall
come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee.
And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called
the Son of God.”
It is through the joint action
of Mary and God that we have our High Priest. Mary’s role in this is
critical, for Jesus’ entire physical body came to Him through Mary. It
should surprise no one when Catholics refer to her as our “co-redemptorix.”
The body and blood of Jesus are essentially the body and blood of Mary.
Christ, having become an high priest of the good things to come….
by his own blood, entered once into the holies,
having obtained eternal redemption.”