In the first reading, the author of Hebrews underscores the priesthood of our Lord as higher than that of the High Priest, Melchizedek, whose origin is unknown. He came mysteriously and disappeared mysteriously as well, as recorded in the book of Genesis. (cf Gn 14:18-20) Abram regarded him as superior to himself for he gave him a tithe of 10% of his booty. Foreshadowing Christ the High Priest, Melchizedek took bread and wine, blessed and gave praise to God. Jesus, before His death on the cross, instituted the Eucharist as a memorial of His passion, death and resurrection which brings about the forgiveness of sins and our reconciliation with God.
Hence, the early Christians regarded Jesus as the High Priest, “a second Melchizedek, who is a priest not by virtue of a law about physical descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.” As the author remarked, that Jesus is the High Priest was also prophesied by King David. “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Ps 110:4) Our Lord in His controversy with His enemies cited this text to justify that the Messiah is the son of David. “David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’ David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” (Mk 12:36f)
Jesus therefore is the High Priest in the Order of Melchizedek because He is both King of Peace and also our Supreme High Priest, not by physical descent from the priestly tribe of Aaron but from God. Jesus as the King of Peace brings righteousness among the nations through His sacrificial death on the cross and this still continues today whenever bread and wine are offered at Mass, transformed into His body and blood as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. For this is what the Lord said in the Eucharist, “While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (Mt 26:26-28)
In the gospel, we read how the Lord showed Himself to be the King of Peace by restoring justice and showing the way for us to live a life of integrity. In His confrontation with the Pharisees, He showed Himself to be upright and righteous before them. Jesus was not afraid of acting justly and compassionately in the face of opposition. Indeed, for many people, escapism is the price they pay for peace. Instead of looking at the issue, they run away from their problems. They pretend that the problems do not exist. They go for “escape” holidays only to return to find that their problems have become even worse. They try to drown their unhappiness through drinking, merry-making and going for adventures. Escapism does not solve the problem but only allows the problems to brew further. Jesus was no escapist. He was courageous enough to take His opponents face on. He confronted the Pharisees for their narrow application of the Sabbath Law and challenged them to rethink how the Sabbath Law should be kept, not just in the letter but the true spirit of it all.
If not by escapism, some try to find peace by evasion. We try to find ways not to deal with our problems by pushing it to someone else. We blame others for the wrongs we have committed. We try to look for scapegoats. We look for people to take our blame. This was the case of the Pharisees. When the Lord confronted them with the question on life and death, they were quiet. Jesus said to them, “‘Is it against the law on the Sabbath day to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to kill?’ But they said nothing.” They did not want to answer the question because they knew the answer too well. Certainly, there is no reason for anyone not to do good on Sabbath, especially if it was to save lives. Even the strict Jewish interpretation on the Sabbath have some provisions when the Sabbath Law could be bent in order to save life. Cases were drawn up as to when such assistance could be rendered.
Again, some try to find peace by making false compromises. This is what is happening in the world today because of relativism. Everyone is right and is entitled to his or her views. No one is wrong because all moral positions are relative. So there is a certain tension in society today even though compromises are made. No one is really happy but everyone is simply tolerating one another. But if something goes wrong and gets blown out of proportion, it could result in violence, demonstrations and unrest. So everyone is careful of what to say or not to say in public lest what is said goes viral and causes those who are not in agreement to react strongly and even hostilely on social media. This explains why there is much angst in society because people no longer feel free to speak even the truth, for fear of retaliation.
But peace can only be achieved through righteousness and justice. Peace can only come about when there is a more just world, when the dignity of the human person is respected. Most of the causes of war and division are due to economic disparity between the rich and the poor and the violations of justice due to discrimination. All these come from envy, pride and selfishness. What is said between persons is also true on the international level where we see the richer countries seeking to dominate the world and compete unfairly by using pressure, psychological warfare, indoctrination, lies, slander and economic threats and manipulation. So long as nations do not collaborate for the common good of all but only think of themselves and compete at the expense of weaker nations, there will be division.
Jesus as the Prince of Peace came to establish righteousness and restore justice. In His inauguration address, He cited from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Lk 4:18f) Jesus as the eschatological prophet sought to proclaim Jubilee Year, when all debts would be set free. He came to reconcile man with God through the forgiveness of sins. He is our High Priest who offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice in atonement for the sins of the world. Through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, we are set free from our sins and given the Spirit to live a life of peace and love.
Jesus is ready to stand up for us. He stood up for the healing of the man despite the opposition of the Jewish leaders. He was not afraid to speak the truth and challenge the Pharisees for being hypocritical in the way they kept the Sabbath Law. He would not be cowed simply because they were powerful members of the religious institution watching Him closely to see whether “he would cure him on the Sabbath day, hoping for something to use against him.” In spite of their hardheartedness, as far as the Lord was concerned, healing and giving life to others cannot wait. Sabbath Law is made for man, not for God!
But it is important to remember that grace demands our cooperation. The man was asked to stand up in the middle of the assembly. He himself had to be ready to stand up for life. Jesus then asked him to stretch out his hand. Again, he had to desire to be healed. The man cooperated with the Lord and he was healed. Unfortunately, the Jewish leaders refused to open their hearts to the Lord and see the truth. On the contrary, instead of advocating healing and life, they stooped so low as to plot with the Herodians, their political enemies to destroy our Lord. Jesus was grieved because He had come to set us all free, including the stubborn and proud Jewish religious leaders. He was angry at their obstinacy. Indeed, He purposely entered the Synagogue because He sought to save us all regardless who we are. He is our High Priest that makes it possible for us to access God freely. He broke down all barriers that prevent us from encountering God directly. But we must cooperate with His grace, accept His forgiveness and go through Him for He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved. The contents of this page may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission from the Archbishop’s Office. This includes extracts, quotations, and summaries.
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online nor will they be available via email request.