Feast – Our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal High Priest. – John 17:1-2,9,14-26
It’s not often in one week that we celebrate two new feasts, both which were added recently to the liturgical calendar. Yet, that is what we see this week; the first week after Pentecost. On Monday, we celebrated the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and today, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest.
Approval for this feast was first granted by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 1987. We celebrate this feast following Pentecost, as we can’t but become more Christ-like unless we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. The Holy Spirit directly inspires us to nurture the character of Christ, deep within us all.
Today’s feast focuses on Jesus’ Priestly Office (Latin: Munus sacerdotale). Jesus is the model for believers, and for the clergy in particular, with priests acting in persona Christi (“In the person of Christ”). Catholic population since 1970 has doubled, while the number of priests has remained much the same. Today would be a good day to pray for us your priests. Pray that we may be more like Christ, the compassionate and trustworthy high priest (Hebrews 2:17), interceding for humanity before The Father (Hebrews 7:25).
It was God who instituted the role of priesthood. He had Aaron, the brother of Moses, anointed a priest. Abraham’s great-grandson Levi was singled out by God to be the father of the priestly tribe. When the Law was given on Mount Sinai, the Levites were identified as the servants of the Tabernacle, with the family of Aaron becoming the priests. The priests were responsible for making intercession to God for the people by offering the many sacrifices that the law required. Among the priests, one was selected as the High Priest, and he entered into the Most Holy Place once a year on the Day of Atonement to place the blood of the sacrifice on the Ark of the Covenant (Hebrews 9:7). By these daily and yearly sacrifices, the sins of the people were temporarily covered until the Messiah came to take away their sins.
Yet, today is not only about the ordained ministers. All of us, by virtue of our Baptism have been made priests. Technically, there is only one priest, our great High Priest, Jesus Christ Himself. He is the mediator between God and humanity. It is in His priesthood that we are called to be a part of.
Back in the Old Testament, priests were tasked to make intercessions to God on behalf of the people by offering sacrifices prescribed by the law. St Paul commented in his Letter to the Hebrews (10:11), that these repeatedly offered sacrifices can never take away sins. When Christ came and offered Himself on the cross, He “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…”For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12,14). Jesus is the Victim that is offered, for on Calvary the offering He made was of Himself for the salvation of the world. That Victimhood we too share by offering up ourselves and all that goes into our daily life.
Today, once again, let us not forget that all of us, through our Baptism and Confirmation, share in the priesthood of Christ. I, through the Sacrament of Ordination, have a greater sharing in Christ’s priesthood. And bishops have a greater sharing than we priests do. Let us be thankful to Jesus who gives us this wonderful privilege. May we make ourselves us worthy as we can for this office that we have been called to share in.