February 4, 2017
Saturday, Week Four, Year I
Hebrews 13:15-21; Psalm 23; Mark 6:30-34.
As One Body, We Pray And Praise
Hebrews draws to a close with a sentence that sums up it all: “Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.”
“Through him.” The entire letter has been telling us that all our prayers, works and sufferings on earth are offered to the Father “through” Jesus Christ. All our Mass prayers end with “through Christ our Lord,” sometimes expanded to its full form: “Through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.”
This is because we never speak to God just as isolated individuals, even when we pray privately. We exist as the body of Christ. We live, act and speak always “in him,” as members of his body. Whenever we pray, we are “priests in the Priest.” We don’t keep “offering again and again,” like the priests of the old Law, “those same sacrifices” and prayers that were only previews and symbols of what God intended to bring about. “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me.” We are that body. We pray always as Christ, approaching the Father “in Christ” our High Priest, who has passed “through the veil” and entered into the Holy of Holies once and for all.
He holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
So we always “approach God through him,” praying always “through Christ our Lord.”
“Let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God”: We never repeat the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. In the Mass we keep making present the sacrifice which he made once and for all. We do not offer the sacrifice of the Mass hoping that God will accept it and hear our prayers. That is a done deal. We “offer a sacrifice of praise,” thanking God (“eucharist” can be translated as “thanksgiving”) for what he has done and is doing in Christ.
Hebrews closes with a triple exhortation:
• Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have….
• Obey your leaders….
• Pray for us.
These are all expressions of the unity we have with each other “in Christ.” If we truly accept the new identity we have as people who have “become Christ” through Baptism, and who, though we are “many, are one body in Christ, and… members one of another,” we will love one another as our own bodies and share what we have. We will accept the direction of those who job it is to keep us together as one body, united in a common faith, hope and love, in the “communion of the Holy Spirit.” And we will pray for one another as “priests in the Priest,” letting Jesus within us pray with us, in us, and through us for all whom he loves; that is, for every person in the world.
Now may the God of peace… by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Meditation: How can Mass help me experience of the mystery of my unity with Jesus and with all the members of his body?