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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Sacrifice & Forgiveness

The Twelfth Day of Christmas!

We are reminded today that Jesus not only came to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament, but also to undo the Fall of humanity. The loss of Eternal Paradise by our First Parents came through sin, and death became its result. “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Caine who belonged to the Evil One and slaughtered his brother.” (NAB, 1JN 3:11-12) Murder is clearly a sin and violation of the Law, but Jesus brought us a new Law of Love, where even the sin of anger, the basis and motivation behind murder, leads to the same judgment: “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” (MT 5:22) “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.” (1JN 3:15)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ IS the Gospel of Love, for Jesus is himself love eternal. We are all sinners and rightly deserve death, but we, as children of God, have received the Good News of Jesus with certainty, and “we know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. Let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” (3:14, 16, 18)

We have been culturally deceived by childhood movies and fairy tales, along with our cultural norms, into believing love should not entail sacrifice, that it’s supposed to be “happily ever after,” but the Truth of love can be found in the Passion of our Lord, in reflecting upon his great love, after having been physically and mentally tortured, beaten, humiliated, abused, abandoned, and crucified, while dying on the cross, he utters, “Father, forgive them.” (LK 5:34)

Lord, make me a person of forgiveness and mercy. I have been forgiven much, yet I hold back mercy, love, and forgiveness from others. Take away my anger and fill me with your love, your True love, love that knows sacrifice, love that knows You. To lay down myself means, at a minimum, to give up my selfishness, my desires, and my ego for love of you. Give me the grace and gifts I need, and when I am tempted, let me remember your Great Passion and see the Crucifix from which you spoke forgiveness. Amen.

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Become the Manger of Christ

In Churches, homes, and even some civic places throughout the world, we see the beautiful, quaint, and charming manger scenes on display. Most certainly, things weren’t as pretty, neat, and clean at the time of Jesus’ birth. The uncertainties, difficulties, and stresses of it all must have been monumental, yet the Holy Family also shows us peace, perseverance, trust, faith, and hope. The beauty of the manger scene is also one where God is seen in the normal, the every-day places and events of life, among the cattle and sheep, in the city and suburb, in the stable and under the stars. Ordinary people, working people were witnesses, like the inn keeper and shepherds, and so were the exalted, the wealthy, the wise, and the angelic.

In fact, ALL OF CREATION was and is witness to the birth of its Savior, the Son of God, humbled in flesh and born as one of us. All of humanity and all of creation is “good” because the God who is Goodness itself sanctified it, touched it, and speaks it into being. This is why we are able to physically and spiritually see the very presence of God himself in creation, in His creation, in our world, and in each other. At the celebration of Christmas, we rejoice in the birth of him called “Emmanuel,” the name which means “God with us,” for he truly is and always will be.

The real gift of Christmas is Jesus. We cannot receive a gift when our arms are filled with all sorts of needless things, and we cannot receive the gift of our Savior when our hearts and lives are filled with all sorts of unnecessary clutter. So much in our lives block and hinder our ability to receive God and his grace. Let’s empty ourselves. Let’s look upon the simplicity of the nativity scene and reflect on its humility and ordinariness, so that our hearts can be transformed into the manger, the empty feeding trough, where Jesus was laid.

St. Paul reminds us that Jesus came into the world and was born to be the Sacrificial Offering for eternity. No more animal holocausts and offerings on altars to cover sins would suffice, but the Infant Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God, would offer himself once, in an Eternal Sacrifice, his Passion, for the salvation of the world. His Blessed Mother placed her precious child in a feeding trough on that Most Holy Night. It was an act of maternal love, but, according to God’s will, it was a gesture which foretold the greatest act of love in all of salvation history, that of her son Jesus giving himself, both Body and Blood, “real food” and “real drink,” in the Eternal Sacrifice “through which we have been consecrated.” (HEB 10:10)

Being prepared for our Lord Jesus Christ, emptied of sin, attachments, and all that keeps us from God’s grace, we will be emboldened by the Holy Spirit to loudly proclaim for all the world: Rejoice and be glad! Our King has been born. Our Savior has come to set us free. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. May all praise, honor, and glory be to God, our Heavenly Father, for ever and ever!

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

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