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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The Faith of a Leper

In Luke’s Gospel (17:11-19), Jesus encounters 10 lepers as he is about to enter a certain village. They cried out to him, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” In response, Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests, and they are healed of their leprosy on their way. It was the responsibility of the priests to ultimately judge whether one was cured from leprosy. Being declared cured was important because a leper was excluded from the community as a whole, and specifically forbidden from worshiping in the Temple. Simply put, lepers were unclean.

We are told that one of the cured lepers, the foreign Samaritan, never makes it to the priests. Instead, upon being cured, he returns to Jesus “to give thanks to God.” He glorified God and fell at the feet of Jesus to thank him. Jesus then declares that this one has been saved by his faith. We can presume that the other 9 lepers presented themselves to the priests, performed their ritual washings, and were reunited with the community.

What did this Samaritan leper experience that the others missed? Why did this leper seem to disobey Jesus’ command to present himself to the priests, but was then rewarded by being proclaimed saved by his faith? Perhaps he realized that the gift of being cured and reunited with the community was indeed a gift, but paled in comparison to the Giver. It’s easy to reverse the two. Perhaps he realized that while the Temple priests could certainly declare him physically clean and reunite him with the social community, only the One True High Priest could declare him spiritually clean and reunite him with the Creator himself.

Heavenly Father, give us the wisdom, insight, and faith of the Samaritan leper, so that we may choose you, the Giver, over the gift. May we recognize your Son as our High Priest, the one True Mediator who atoned for our sins so that we may be reunited with you in the eternal community of your Heavenly Kingdom. Amen.

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