Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 22, 2006 – Blessed Sacrament
In the second reading today we heard words that should be of immense comfort for us Christians. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has been developing a sustained comparison of Jesus to the Jewish high priest. In performing his duties the ancient priest passed through two veils and brought the blood of the sacrificed animal into the part of the temple known as the Holy of Holies. So too in the Epistle, the essential moment of the sacrifice is when Christ passes through the heavens and brings the blood of his sacrifice before God. On the analogy, the sacrifice of Christ is not complete with his death on the cross but only when by his resurrection and ascension, he comes before God where he consummates his priestly sacrifice.
This is “the great high priest” who has passed through the heavens to make intercession for us before God. He is not a priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses because he has himself undergone every one of the temptations or tests that we human beings face. At the right hand of God, in other words, stands one of us, a human being, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, who knows what it means to be a human being, to have hungered and thirsted, to have desired and loved, to have grieved, to have suffered in body and in mind, to have died. As St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote, our relationship with God has some of the intimacy that can naturally exist between human beings because our great high priest is one of us.
This is the reason why, as the author goes on, we can be “confident to approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” The throne of grace, of course, is the throne of God, is God himself. The fundamental attitude of a Christian before God should be one of confidence. Too many people, including Christians, see God rather as someone to fear either in general or because of some sin they have committed which they cannot believe can really be forgiven. Out of that fear they may either not pray at all or think that they must go to Our Lady or to the saints as ones who must intercede for them, as if they are not themselves worthy to come before God directly. Such people need to hear this word and to let it enter their hearts and minds: we may approach the throne of God with confidence because it is a throne of grace, and from it flows mercy and timely help.
With this liturgy we are ourselves joining in the worship which our great high priest performs before this throne of grace. The heavenly liturgy descends to us, or we ascend to it–we can think of it in either way. We are not alone in this worship. When we sing the “Holy, holy, holy”, we join the angels and saints in their worshiping hymn. And presiding over this liturgy is one who can sympathize with whatever weakness we may bring to it and because of whose sacrifice and intercession the throne of God is a throne of grace.