Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Are A Priest Forever, In The Line Of Melchizedek

Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading I
Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17
Melchizedek, king of Salem
and priest of God Most High,
met Abraham as he returned
from his defeat of the kings
and blessed him.
And Abraham apportioned to him
a tenth of everything.
His name first means righteous king,
and he was also “king of Salem,”
that is, king of peace.
Without father, mother, or ancestry,
without beginning of days or end of life,
thus made to resemble the Son of God,
he remains a priest forever.

It is even more obvious
if another priest is raised up
after the likeness of Melchizedek,
who has become so,
not by a law expressed in a commandment
concerning physical descent
but by the power of a life
that cannot be destroyed.

For it is testified:
You are a priest forever
according to the order of Melchizedek.
+++    +++    +++    +++   
Psalm 110
R. You are a priest for ever,
in the line of Melchizedek.
The LORD said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand
till I make your enemies your footstool.”
R. You are a priest for ever,
in the line of Melchizedek.
The scepter of your power the LORD
will stretch forth from Zion:
“Rule in the midst of your enemies.”
R. You are a priest for ever,
in the line of Melchizedek.
“Yours is princely power
in the day of your birth, in holy splendor;
before the daystar, like the dew,
I have begotten you.”
R. You are a priest for ever,
in the line of Melchizedek.
The LORD has sworn,
and he will not repent:
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”
R. You are a priest for ever,
in the line of Melchizedek.
+++    +++    +++    +++   
Mark 3:1-6
Jesus entered the synagogue.
There was a man there
who had a withered hand.
They watched Jesus closely
to see if he would cure him on the sabbath
so that they might accuse him.
He said to the man with the withered hand,
“Come up here before us.”
Then he said to the Pharisees,
“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”
But they remained silent.
Looking around at them with anger
and grieved at their hardness of heart,
Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”
He stretched it out and his hand was restored.
The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel
with the Herodians against him to put him to death.
St. Fabian
(c. 250)

Fabian was a Roman layman who came into the city from his farm one day as clergy and people were preparing to elect a new pope. Eusebius, a Church historian, says a dove flew in and settled on the head of Fabian. This sign united the votes of clergy and laity and he was chosen unanimously.

He led the Church for 14 years and died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in a.d. 250. St. Cyprian wrote to his successor that Fabian was an “incomparable” man whose glory in death matched the holiness and purity of his life.

In the catacombs of St. Callistus, the stone that covered Fabian’s grave may still be seen, broken into four pieces, bearing the Greek words, “Fabian, bishop, martyr.”

We can go confidently into the future and accept the change that growth demands only if we have firm roots in the past, in a living tradition. A few pieces of stone in Rome are a reminder to us that we are bearers of more than 20 centuries of a living tradition of faith and courage in living the life of Christ and showing it to the world. We have brothers and sisters who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith,” as the First Eucharistic Prayer puts it, to light the way for us.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian).

Saint of the Day

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

'The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death'

I thought the Pharisees hated and despised Herod, yet here they are united in purpose!

Perhaps both sides were united by worries about their identities as spiritual and secular leaders if Jesus were seen as the 'heir' to the Priest-King Melchizedek. Maybe when King Herod built his massive temple it was his bid to be the eternal priest-king. He probably expected it to last millennia - like the Egyptian pyramids already had. Such a monument could give his heirs lasting status as spiritual leaders and kings - like Melchizedek. This would give Herod himself the Sadducee version of eternal life through his heirs. If the Herodians wanted Herod's line to embody the prophecy of 'a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek', they failed spectacularly - Herod is popularly viewed more like a murderer forever in the line of Satan!!

The Pharisees do not seem to have had any champion in mind for the post of 'Melchizedek'. From time to time, groups would endorse a prospective messiah but, if Bar Kochba was typical, kingliness was more important than priestliness. Their belief in their own individual sanctity as the mark of their calling to leadership makes me think their approach to Melchizedek would have been similar to those protestants who say all Christians (with notable exceptions!) are called to be priests and kings. If that idea does actually have some roots among the Pharisees, the targetted killing of Catholic priests post Reformation looks horribly like history repeating itself.

Christ promised not to leave us as orphans. Orphans have parents in heaven, just not physically on earth. Through priests and the Eucharist - through Christ Himself - our heavenly Father is physically with us on earth.

The Pharisees are a warning to us all: when I try to be holy, I should beware of killing Christ in the process ...