Thursday, April 5, 2018

Christ: Priest and Victim

MARCH 30, 2018

Jesus I trust in you!

Good Friday in the Year of Priests gives us the occasion to meditate on the High Priesthood of Jesus because the mystery of our Lord’s suffering and death on the Cross gives light to the reason why we always speak of the Priesthood of Christ. First of all, we should ask: Who is the Priest and what does he do? The concept of the priesthood is not exclusive to the Catholic religion. The priesthood is found in all religions because religion seeks to offer God the worship that rightfully befits him. The virtue of religion is the virtue that inclines the human heart to offer God worship that is his due. And in every religion, the highest act of worship is always the sacrifice in which an animal or a human being is killed in order to profess the dominion of the deity over life and death. Of all acts of worship, the sacrifice is the highest and the costliest because it involves the snuffing out of a victim’s life. This death is brought about by the separation of the blood from the flesh or the body of the victim. And the one who offers the victim, the one who kills the victim is called a “priest.” And so, the chief work of a priest is to offer the sacrifice to the deity in the highest act of worship of that religion.

And it is on Good Friday that we see Jesus in the very act of performing his duty as the High Priest of the New Covenant. In the Old Testament priesthood, the high priest on the Day of Atonement, kills a bull and a goat. And taking the blood of the animals, he enters the Holy of Holies and there, sprinkles the blood on the atonement cover for his own sins and for the people’s. Today, as Jesus expires, he enters into the Holy of Holies, “passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by human hands (not belonging to creation). He entered, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, and achieved eternal redemption.” Jesus is the only one who is priest and victim at the same time. All other priests have to kill a victim other than himself because if they killed themselves, that would be the end of their service to God. Jesus is the only one who could offer himself because he is the Lamb who once was slain but now he lives forever.”

Jesus offered the most perfect sacrifice which man can ever offer to God. This is because his obedience to the Father’s will is perfect. Worship can only be perfect and acceptable if it comes from an absolutely obedient heart. Thus, the blood of this perfectly obedient Son of God is even more greatly powerful than the blood of animals or of any other human being. “If the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God!”

“This is why Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant…Christ entered heaven itself that he might appear before God on our behalf…He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sins once for all by his sacrifice…Christ was offered up once to take away the sins of many; he will appear a second time…to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.”

It was on the Cross on this day when Jesus exercised his priestly ministry. The Lord Jesus was hung upon the Cross as both priest and victim. He offered the Father his obedience and in so doing, he is the priest. He died and in so doing he is the victim. This priestly ministry of Jesus is made present in every celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. In the Liturgy and through the ministry of the priest, Jesus offers to his Father the perfect worship and in doing so, he brings about the sanctification of his people. This is the highest and the only sacrifice that is acceptable to the Father. Nothing can ever rival this sacrifice in its perfection. “The price of (our) redemption was not something of fleeting value like gold or silver, but the costly shedding of the blood of Christ, the lamb without blemish…The blood of Jesus Christ washes away all our sins.”

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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