In last Sunday’s Second Reading we began a section from the Letter to the Hebrews which speaks about the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. This letter is addressed to Jewish converts to Christianity. The inspired author shows how the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross is more excellent than the sacrifices of the Old Covenant, which it both fulfills and brings to an end.
In last Sunday’s reading Jesus was identified both as high priest and Son of God, “who has passed through the heavens.” Nevertheless he is not “unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” because he “has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” In other words, he is true God and true man.
In the Old Covenant there was a succession of high priests, descended from Aaron, the first high priest. Being mortal men, they had to be replaced. They also were tainted by sin and offered sacrifices for themselves as well as for the people. Jesus, however, is “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Jesus’ priesthood is not inherited, but is conferred by God the Father. As God the Son, Jesus holds this dignity eternally. Melchizedek appears in Genesis 14:18-20, long before Aaron existed. No paternal ancestry is given and no mention of how long he lived. He is identified as “king of Salem” and “priest of God Most High,” who brings out bread and wine and blesses Abraham. The only other place where he is mentioned in the Bible is in Psalm 110, quoted in today’s Second Reading, where he is seen to be a prefiguration of Jesus Christ as King and Priest, who has no paternal ancestry and lives forever. Therefore Jesus is the Eternal High Priest, “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” This argument will continue through the final Sundays of the liturgical year leading up to the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, on November 25.
Please keep in mind that Thursday, November 1, is the Solemnity of All Saints and a holy day of obligation. Friday, November 2, is the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day). It is a day of prayer and penance for the souls in purgatory. There will be an expanded Mass schedule on both days. Our membership in the Church, the Mystical Body of the Risen Christ, does not end with death. Therefore the bonds of communion which unite us as fellow members of the Church are not broken by death. In these two days we, the saints on earth (the “Church Militant”) are inspired by the glory of the saints in heaven (the “Church Triumphant”) and we offer prayers and penances for the purification of the saints in purgatory (the “Church Suffering”). A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who on November 2 as well as the Sunday preceding or following, and on All Saints’ Day, piously visit a church. In visiting the church it is required that an Our Father and the Creed be recited. To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary also to fulfill the following three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and the prayer for the intention of the Holy Father. The three conditions must be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the visit; it is, however, fitting that communion be received and the prayer for the intention of the Holy Father be said on the same day as the visit. Try to do that this week.
Next weekend St. Charles Borromeo Parish will celebrate its patronal feast day on November 4. St. Peter Parish will observe the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Please remember to support the missions and to give to the Diocesan Annual Appeal. We must maintain an attitude that is truly “catholic” by reaching out in prayer and support to the wider Church. Mission Sunday envelopes and cash gifts may be dropped into the second collection being taken up this weekend. Please also give careful consideration to a pledge for the Diocesan Annual Appeal, remembering that it is a year-long gift. Don’t worry about pledging too much—whatever is given beyond our parish target is returned to our parish 100%! Thank you.
Pray the rosary this week for the souls in purgatory. Pray for people you know who are no longer practicing the Catholic faith. Pray for good weather for the completion of the fall harvest. Pray for those in our community who are homeless, unemployed or needing health care. Pray for the good of our country and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.