Jesus, Intercessor

Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.” (NAB, HEB 7:25) How incredible it is that our Lord, Jesus Christ, constantly intercedes on our behalf, not only as our High Priest, but as the Son of God. His intercession for us is perfect, just as he himself is perfect in holiness and righteousness, the sinless, unblemished Sacrificial Lamb of God. The Letter to the Hebrews continues: “It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself.” (7:26-27)

God gave himself to us so that we might give ourselves to him. Our unity with God is made possible through the perfection made possible through the one-time, perpetual, and eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who humbled himself as Son of God, becoming one like us. We cannot make ourselves worthy or holy, but it is through the transforming power of Jesus that we become worthy and holy as sons and daughters of God the Father. It is not our merits, rather, it his perfection that brings us to perfection in the Eternal Kingdom of Heaven, and we cooperate with God’s grace in our daily struggle to humble ourselves and unite our will to his: “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus, you are my Intercessor, my great High Priest, who sacrificed yourself out of love for me. Give me the grace and humility I need to relinquish my will, so as to unite myself completely with you. Allow me to trust in your infinite love and give me confidence in knowing that whatever happens to me is for my good and your glory. Amen.

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My Withered Soul

There are only five (some scholars believe six) healing stories of Jesus that took place on the Sabbath. The first one, which is the only one to appear in all three Synoptic Gospels, is the healing of the withered hand. The oldest rendition of the story is likely the one in the Gospel of Mark: “Again, [Jesus] entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Come up here before us.’ Jesus [then] said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out and his hand was restored.” (NAB, MK 3:1, 3, 5)

The man who needed healing was searching, not necessarily for a restored hand, but for God. He came to the synagogue on the Holy Sabbath, as he was, lame hand and all, to worship and to encounter God, his Creator. We are all somewhat like this man; we all need healing. We might not have a withered, useless hand, but some part(s) of us have become lame, fruitless, and less than desirable. God wants to heal them. God wants to heal us.

Heavenly Father, you who are Creator of the Universe, and who are also the infinitely loving, Divine Healer, heal my withered soul. You know my infirmities, You know my weaknesses, and You know those parts of me that are most in need of your healing touch. Touch me. Heal me. Free me from my defects, so that I may more fully love and serve your Son, Jesus, by loving and serving those around me. Amen.

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Jesus, Lord

During the time of Jesus, the religious leaders had created countless rules, regulations, and laws that directed and conformed the behaviors of the Jewish people. There were nearly 40 categories of rules and forbidden activities solely related to the Sabbath, the Day of Rest established by God. By strictly regulating what one could and could not do, and creating heavy burdens of obligation on God’s people, the Pharisees had essentially established themselves as lord and ruler of God’s Day of Rest.

Mark’s Gospel presents a confrontation between these leaders and Jesus, as the Pharisees seek to reinforce their authority and enforcement regarding how one is to behave on the Sabbath. “As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?’ [Jesus] said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’” (NAB, MK 23-24, 27-28)

Jesus was making clear who is the true Lord of the Sabbath, not the Pharisees or any other religious leaders, but God alone. Jesus was making clear that He, the maker and giver of the Law, is the correct one to interpret the Law. Jesus, in fact, was ushering in a New Law, a New Covenant, a fulfillment all the prophecies and revelations that God had given. This New Testament is revealed in the Good News of Jesus Christ, our Lord, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the One True God of Creation. We worship a God of love, not laws, and when the laws of man conflict with the Law of Love, our loyalties must be clear.

Jesus, you were present at the very dawn of Creation. All that is, was spoken into being by you, the Word present, for your word is Truth. Your word is also Love. Help me to bring that same love and truth to those I encounter in my daily activities, so that they may also experience your peace, mercy, and love, and may you forever be glorified through your servants. Amen.

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Jesus, High Priest

The Jewish High Priest held the holiest social and religious position among the people. He offered daily sacrifices at the Temple, served as an advocate for the people in prayers to God, and was a consultant on all major decisions in the community. On the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, the High Priest performed all of the Temple ceremonies by himself, and only on this day, he would enter the Holy of Holies, the inner chamber of the Temple, to offer sacrifices for the atonement of his sins and those of the people. This sacrifice was meant to cover over their sins.

St. Paul reminds us that Jesus is our High Priest (cf. HEB 5:1-10). Whereas the priests of the Jewish Temple would continuously offer bloody sacrifices, the blood of Jesus would be offered only once, for all time, as the Eternal Sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, not a covering over them, but the complete cleansing and renewal of our souls that frees us to choose eternal life. Jesus’s Paschal sacrifice is the perfection of that of the High Priests and of the Priest Melchizedek, the first to offer the unbloodied sacrifice of bread and wine to Almighty God. The offering of his Precious Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine is his continuous and eternal gift to us.

Let us come to recognize Jesus as the True High Priest, the one who offered himself as the perfect, unblemished sacrifice, as he poured out his blood and offered his body and flesh for the forgiveness of our sins. Perfect and sinless though he was, he gave himself up out of love for us and “he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (NAB, HEB 5:10)

Jesus, I cannot comprehend or understand the depth of your love for me, but I am grateful. Thank you for loving me and giving your sinless self as a sacrifice so that I, a wretched and underserving sinner, may live forever in Eternal Paradise. May you be my True High Priest, the one from whom I seek advice, counsel, and teaching, the one to whom I give glory and praise, and the one in whom I find peace, joy, and life itself. Amen.

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Be Healed

Many of the “religious” folks at the time of Jesus were scandalized that he would associate with people who were viewed as unholy or undesirable.  Mark’s Gospel tells us that, “While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus heard this and said to them, ‘Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.’” (NAB, MK 2”15-17) The religious leaders failed to see their own sinfulness and so also did not recognize the need for a savior; their judgmental view of the world blinded them from the truth.

When we are able to recognize ourselves as sinners, grace opens our eyes to see that we are the sick to whom the Son of God came to save. Jesus wants to sit and eat with us. He calls us to the Lamb’s Supper as he calls us to conversion, and we need not be afraid or embarrassed. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely healing.” (HEB 4:14-16) God is calling us today, just as he called Matthew and all of his disciples; “Come, follow me.” Jesus calls us to conversion, to recognize that we are in need of healing because of our sins, and then to receive his grace, that grace we need to change our lives and live in constant pursuit of holiness. Jesus calls us to himself. Let us answer that call.

Jesus, I hear your call. I know that I am a sinner. I know that I need the healing that only comes from you. Forgive me. Give me the wisdom to see my sins and defects, the heart to be truly sorry, the courage to confess all that I’ve done, the heart to receive your love, mercy, and grace, and the determination and strength to live in that same grace, according to your Law and Covenant of Love. Amen.

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Real Friendship

Mark’s Gospel tells us of the story of a paralyzed man who was healed. More importantly, the man was first forgiven of his sins. “They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven. Rise, pick up your mat, and walk.’” (NAB, MK 2:3-5, 9)

Jesus consistently demonstrated his authority and power to forgive sins through the various miracles and healings he performed. Oftentimes, those occasions involved individuals, but the healing of this paralytic would not have happened were it not for his friends. It was the faith of this paralyzed man and his friends which moved Jesus to mercy and compassion: “Jesus saw their faith.” (2:5) He was paralyzed, but not helpless, not alone. It was his weakness and powerlessness that presented the opportunity for his friends to demonstrate the strength of their faith, by which Jesus exhibited his power of healing and forgiveness. It is truly in our weakness where strength abounds.

The paralytic’s friends took him to Jesus. They recognized their friend’s needs, and out of their love for him and their faith in Jesus, they demonstrated their commitment and fraternal love by seeking the Lord. What kind of friends do we have? Do they bring us closer to Jesus? Do they share a faith that calls us to a deeper conversion to and love of the Lord? And perhaps more importantly, what kind of friend are we? Do we draw others to Christ? Does our faith compel us to help others in bringing their problems to Jesus, the Healer and Forgiver? Do our lives lead others to the Lord?

Jesus, my all-loving, merciful, forgiving, and healing Lord, may I seek you in all things. You made me, not to be alone, but rather, to live in community, as a brother or sister, and as a friend to others. May I be a true friend, by bringing others to you and by drawing them closer and leading them in faith and love to receive your healing, forgiveness, and mercy. Amen.

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Make Me Clean

Jesus frequently used healings and miracles to support and emphasize his teaching of a New Law and a New Covenant. In the Gospel of Mark, for example, we hear early on of the healing of a leper. Lepers were ostracized from the community and were not even allowed to participate in worship; they were absolute outcasts from family and society in a truly profound way. So, being healed of leprosy meant being reunited with family, reunited with friends, and reunited with the People of God, being able to properly worship with the community in the Temple and synagogues.

A leper came to [Jesus] and kneeling down begged him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, [Jesus] stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, ‘I will do it. Be made clean.’ The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.” (NAB, MK 1:40-42) We are all in need of cleansing, and our faith reminds us that we can turn to our most merciful and forgiving Savior at any time, and he’s there, waiting for us, ready to give us the gift of renewal and reconciliation. The depth of our sins is insignificant in the presence of the power of God’s grace; his infinite love for us provides immediate rescue when we call upon him in faith.

When is the last time you knelt down and begged Jesus to make you clean? It takes humility and faith to admit our sins and confess them, and it takes the strength and courage that come only from God’s grace to keep us from sin in pursuit of holiness and sanctity. We are each called to be a saint; we are called to unity with our Lord in a perfection that can only be accomplished because of the Sacrifice and Passion of God’s Only Begotten Son. We are made perfect through his perfection, and we are made holy through his sanctifying life.

Lord, Jesus, “if you wish, you can make me clean.” Open my mind and reveal to me my sins, that I may honestly and openly confess them with a most contrite heart. I desire nothing less than you, and you desire nothing less than my salvation. Give me a truly sorrowful heart for all of my offenses, and give me your grace, so that I may change my life and pursue the life of holiness to which I am called. Amen.

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