Hebrews 10:12-13
But [Jesus] offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.
Standing was the correct posture for servants and employees. The reference is to Old Testament priests who repeatedly, every day, went through the same motions and offered the same sacrifices. By contrast, as is stated in Psalm 110:1 – The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand, while I make your enemies your footstool.”
After Jesus ascended, he was seated at the right hand of God the Father. We say this in the creed. In addition to conveying the idea of repose and rest, being seated would be equivalent to becoming royalty. What has happened is that, by virtue of the value of his single sacrifice, Christ has taken possession of heaven for ever more and has merited royal dignity; all that remains to happen, and it shall happen, is for all his enemies to submit to him.
First Corinthians says: “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for ‘he subjected everything under his feet.’ ” So fruitful is his sacrifice that those who take part in it, “those who have been sanctified”, are thereby perfected: they obtain forgiveness of sins, purity of conscience, access to and union with God. In other words, the source of holiness in men is the sacrifice of Calvary.
I will admit most of what I just said is not my writing. But it was written so well that I chose to use it as it was! But now I want to go on to verses just past our reading for this weekend.
Verses 19 to 23 read this way: “Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,” let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.”
Those of you watching my videos heard me speak about this last weekend, but do not tune me out just yet. In the Jewish Temple worship, when there was a sacrifice, those participating in the sacrifice had to eat the sacrifice in order for it to be valid. So similarly Jesus gave us the Eucharist so that we could participate in his sacrifice of the cross. This is why we are able to approach, with a sincere heart, an all holy God who is so far above us in holiness as to make us worthless, without the blood of Jesus.
These verses also speak about being sprinkled clean. What else could this be speaking about other than baptism?
But with the blood of Jesus everything is made new! I want to conclude this first part of my homily with another quote: the writer to the Hebrews “uses Old Testament passages to show that Christ’s sacrifice is superior to those of the Old Law. The old sacrifices had to be offered repeatedly and they could not take away sin, whereas Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is a “single” and perfect one “offered for all time”. Those who share in this sacrifice are made perfect, that is, they attain forgiveness of sins, purity of conscience and access to and union with God. In other words, the sacrifice of Calvary is the source of man’s holiness.
The efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice stems from his perfect obedience to the will of his Father. This obedience is the reason for the Incarnation. That is why, earlier in chapter 10, we have something that appears in a number of different Masses in the Church: “for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins. For this reason, when he came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’ ”
It is important to remember that the Mass is the renewal of Christ’s unique sacrifice and that it is not a repetition of it in the way that the old sacrifices were repeated: “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: … only the manner of offering is different.’
So, what are we to do with all this? Next weekend is the feast of Christ the King, which is the end of our liturgical year. So the church in her wisdom gives us this reading from Hebrews today to draw our attention to that “end of time” when Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father will be revealed in all his glory. Already, because of his humility in appearing before us in the Eucharist, he reveals the depth of his glory.
He invites us to participate in that depth and in that glory. We could spend our entire lives studying the implications of the Eucharist. Many saints have. But it comes back to a single point for each of us: are we going to embrace this sacrifice of Christ? And what does that mean? How does receiving the King of Kings and Lord of lords into our lives change us? How are we different from the rest of the world? (Pause.)
There are many things in our own lives that we look at as a way to identify ourselves. Things we have accomplished that give us pride. Things we have done that give us shame. But through it all Jesus wants us to know one thing – to identify with one thing – to hold to one thing: he has called us to participate in the sacrifice of the cross, in the sacrifice of the mass, in his sacrifice to the Father, in our sacrifice of our lives. To identify with the Eucharist.
How we react to this most magnificent miraculous gift of God will mark how we spend our eternity. Embrace the cross. Embrace the Eucharist. Embrace the bridegroom of your soul. Embrace the King of Kings.