Homilies on Book of Hebrews (Part 5) Bruised, Yet Giving Off a Sweet Aroma.
The language of this week’s Second Reading from Hebrews rings a bit foreign to modern ears. There’s a reason for it. The scripture commentary from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church (Picayune, MS) explains that “This is technical, priestly language. To be accepted, Levitical priests needed to prove their genealogy, as was outlined in Ezra 2:62-63 and Nehemiah 7:64-65. Leviticus paternity needed to be 10 generations and maternal for 4 generations with no unclean marriages (to non-Jews) and no illegitimacy. The Levitical priest then began an apprenticeship at age 25 and served as priest from age 30 to age 50 at which point the requirement was that he retire.”
Jesus has a genealogy. We hear this in the reading of the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-16 which is read during Christmas. But the genealogy of Jesus does not fulfill the the requirement of a Levitical priesthood. His heritage is from the lineage of David, not the priestly tribe of Levi. Jesus lived until his early to mid-thirties so he never served a legitimate apprenticeship either.
So it seems as if Jesus is breaking all of the rules – he’s breaking the law. His priesthood should be totally invalid … unless you do away with the law.
The former priesthood was the priesthood of Aaron and of the tribe of Levi. Jesus is the new high priest. A new priesthood required a change in the law. The change in the law of the covenant required an entirely new covenant. This new covenant came into being with the new priesthood of Jesus. As we read in Hebrews today,
The levitical priests were many because they were prevented by death from remaining in office ….The high priests, needed to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people.
The priesthood of Christ means one death, resurrection, and ascension for all persons for all time. His is a “once-for-all sin and once-for-all people “sacrifice. This sacrifice of forgiveness and mercy is continual offering which is happening all of the time in heaven. The Eucharist – the meal that participates in this “always-occurring-sacrificial offering, seals the NEW covenant, reestablishes the relationship between a God and humanity, opens the gates of heaven, gives us a new life forever in heaven and gives us a new hope now of potential of changing situations
The other day I was watching The Chef’s Kitchen. The show not only highlights local culinary talent, it also has an emphasis on healthy eating and living. Thus, they also feature people from the local Delaware- and Lehigh Valley medical community. They talk about their speciality, what they do, how they serve the good people in our community as well as some tips on healthy living.
In this episode, the chef featured Lemongrass Poached Day Boat Halibut with Ginger Edamame Succotash, Nori Pesto & Avocado Puree. It once,used preparation of a poaching stock for the fish (1 Quart Chicken Stock, 1 Teaspoon Fish Sauce, 1 Teaspoon Soy! 1 Tablespoon Sweet Chili Sauce, 1 Tablespoon Honey, 1 lobe of fresh Ginger, 2 bay leaves and 2 Stalks of Lemongrass
As the host was speaking to the guest physician, she suddenly broke mod-sentence and said “Oh what is that terrific aroma?” The chef answered that it was lemon grass. She was smacking it with the back of her knife blade. The host said, “I wondered what all of that banging was. Now I know what you’re doing. You’re bruising the lemon grass to release it’s sweet fragrance.”
”But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Who are the best healers? Those who have be bruised. They are the people who know what it is like to be in a difficult situation. Hence they have a keen sense of compassion for people in similar situations.
Jesus the High Priest understands this. As we read in 2 Corinthians 1:4, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” As we read several weeks ago in Hebrews, Jesus is the High Priest, “who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses… one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”
If you have been bruised (and who hasn’t been) you can be that person who also gives off a sweet scent, a healing balm. You can be the person who is the “altar of grace” who gives hope and care and consolation to that person who is also bruised.