Day 363: The new covenant priesthood

Revelation 15:1-8 The angels, vested as priests, carry the bowls of plagues and usher in the final phase of judgment. The tent, or tabernacle, is the center of worship and a symbol of God's presence. Prayers for God to intervene and overcome sin and the forces of evil are answered through the outpouring of catastrophic plagues. (CCC 335, 1110, 2851-2853) 


Ch 16:1-21 As in the previous set of plagues, these are reminiscent of the plagues that befell Egypt before the Exodus of the Chosen People. Still, there is no repentance among the afflicted and they persist in their attachment to sin. God invited them to repentance but, respecting their gift of free will, did not force them to repent and return to him. Some may eventually recognize the consequences of their sins and undergo conversion, but others will remain obstinate and refuse every entreaty. Eternal damnation is a tragic end for one endowed with the freedom to opt for eternal life, but it is always the result of choices freely made rather than circumstances beyond a person's control. 

I am coming like a thief: Christ will return unannounced, so the faithful must remain vigilant in the struggle against sin and temptation. (CCC 1843, 2849) 


16:16 Armageddon: A Hebrew name for Mt. Megiddo, where King Josiah of Judah was killed as he took on the Egyptian army (cf. 2 Kgs 23:29-30).The use of the term here turns the tables to indicate the defeat of the enemy forces rather than their victory. (CCC 677, 2853) 


Ch 16:17-21 It is done: With the pouring out of the seventh bowl, a great theophany of God indicates that the destruction of the world is complete. The words from the throne bring to mind the completion of creation as well as Christ's words from the Cross indicating the completion of his Passion: "It is finished." (CCC 345, 607, 2605) 


Ch 17:1-18 The harlot of the vision is referred to as Babylon, the ancient city known for its moral transgressions and its pagan governance. Its seven hills could represent either Rome or Jerusalem, each of which was referred to as a "City of Seven Hills." In either case, Babylon is being taken to task for its pagan practices, its rejection of Christ, and its persecution of Christians. The beast represents the Roman Empire, and the seven heads probably represent seven Roman rulers who carried out persecutions against the Church (cf. Rev 12:3). The ten horns refer to ten kings who would later rule Roman territory or, perhaps, puppet rulers that Rome established to govern its various conquered territories. The harlot is responsible for the deaths of many Christians through violent persecution. (CCC 762, 2380, 2473-2474) 


Ch 17:8 Was, and is not, and is to ascend: A play on words with the description of God as "who was, and is, and is to come" (Rev 4:8). It may refer to a legend that Nero had faked his own death and would return to reassume his throne, which would make him the eighth emperor, or the beast himself. (CCC 2854) 


Ch 17:14-18 These verses seem to indicate that the beast will turn on the harlot city and destroy her; for the Roman Empire, sin and evil was its eventual undoing. 

Burn her with fire: If the harlot represents Jerusalem, this would likely be a reference to the destruction and burning of Jerusalem by the Romans AD 70. As terrifying and powerful as the beast may seem in making war on the Lamb, the Lamb easily emerges victorious. (CCC 677)

Hebrews 5:1-10 Christ exercised his high priesthood through perfect obedience to the Father's plan for salvation, which required his sacrificial suffering and Death. By identifying our will with that of Christ, we, too, are made pleasing to the Father. Those who receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders participate in Christ's high priesthood by acting in persona Christi capitis. An ordained minister is consecrated to preach the Gospel, celebrate the Sacraments, shepherd the faithful, and lead the community in worship. (CCC 784, 1559-1565, 1572)

Ch 5:2 Ignorant and wayward: Sins may be committed out of ignorance or by choice. Sins of ignorance are further subdivided into invincible ignorance and vincible ignorance, of which the latter is more serious. A person sins out of invincible ignorance when there was no way of knowing that the act in question was sinful; thus, he or she is not responsible for the evil committed. A person sins out of vincible ignorance when he or she had the possibility of knowing the truth but intentionally remained ignorant of the sinfulness or gravity of a particular action. (CCC 1735, 1791-1793, 1854-1860) 


Ch 5:4 The vocation to receive Holy Orders is a gift from God. 


Ch 5:7-10 Godly fear: As a man, Christ feared death and suffered great pain in his Passion and Crucifixion. However, his ardent desire to do his Father's will overcame this fear. 

Learned obedience: As God, Christ had perfect knowledge, but as a man, he had to gain knowledge through experience. Since we are born with a fallen nature, we must learn, often in a painstaking way, to conform our wills to the will of the Father. (CCC 612, 617, 2606, 1009, 2741, 2825) 


Ch 5:10 Melchizedek was the priest-king of Salem who offered gifts of bread and wine in the presence of Abraham. In Psalm 110, God promised a priest-king who would be "a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Ps 110:4). These figures and promises were fulfilled in Christ, the King of Heaven and earth and the Eternal High Priest who offered his redemptive Sacrifice on the Cross. His perfect Sacrifice is re-presented in the Eucharistic Sacrifice through the consecration of bread and wine, which becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. Melchizedek is mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer I (the Roman Canon): "Be pleased to look upon these offerings [the host and chalice] with serene and kindly countenance, and to accept them, as once you were pleased to accept the gifts of your servant Abel the just, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek, a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim." (CCC 1544) 


Ch 5:11-14 The Apostles, who preached the Gospel and won converts for Christ, often referred to the new Christians as their spiritual children in the Faith. Given their knowledge of the Old Covenant, the Sacred Author of this Epistle will continuously show how the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old. Another important theme is the high priesthood of Christ, through which the Redemption takes place. (CCC 1-25, 1697) 


Ch 6:1-3 The laying on of hands is a sign of the transmission of the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. This gesture is included in the Sacrament of Confirmation as well as in Baptism, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick. (CCC 699, 1249, 1253-1255, 1288) 


Ch 6:4-12 While the baptized gratuitously receive the grace of faith, they must still grow in the Christian life through deeds of faith inspired by love. The willful rejection of Christ means rejecting the very mercy of God by which we receive forgiveness. This is also a warning to the faithful that they should safeguard their faith lest they lose the great gift of salvation. 

Heavenly gift: The Eucharist, the "bread from heaven," is the true Body and Blood of Christ. When we receive the Holy Eucharist, we truly have Christ dwelling within us, granting us his grace. 

Crucify the Son of God: Every time we sin, we participate in the Crucifixion of Christ, which occurred on account of our sins. (CCC 598, 655, 679, 1216, 1846-1847)

Ch 6:19-20 The Holy of Holies was the inner sanctum of the Temple, set apart by a large curtain. No one could enter the Holy of Holies except the high priest, who would enter only once a year on the Day of Atonement (in Hebrew, Yom Kippur) to offer sacrifices for himself and the people of Israel. Immediately following the Death of Christ, this curtain was rent from top to bottom, indicating that God was no longer inaccessible but rather desired to dwell within each person as in a Temple. In Christianity, the Holy of Holies is symbolically represented by the sanctuary, especially in churches of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church that have an iconostasis, a screen of icons separating the sanctuary from the nave. (CCC 2810) 


Ch 6:19 Steadfast anchor of the soul: The anchor has been a symbol of faith in the risen Lord and hope for our own resurrection since the days of the early Church. (CCC 1544, 1820) 


Ch 7:1-3 Melchizedek (Hebrew for "king of righteousness") is a type (TYPOLOGY!!), or figure, of Christ. He was the King of Salem ("peace"), identified as Jerusalem, who offered a sacrifice of bread and wine. Unlike the later priestly tribe of Levi, who were priests by ancestry, Melchizedek received his priesthood directly from God. Thus, he is "without father or mother or genealogy." (CCC 58, 1333, 1350) 


Ch 7:4-10 The Mosaic Law prescribed that Levitical priests were to receive a tithe from the people. However, the fact that their father Abraham gave Melchizedek tithes, and, in turn, received Melchizedek's blessing, shows that the priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek was superior to the Levitical priesthood. (CCC 1544) 


Ch 7:12 A change in priesthood is accompanied by a change in the laws of worship. The symbolic animal sacrifices to God of the Old Covenant were replaced by the one redeeming Sacrifice of Christ. The application of the superabundance of grace merited by Christ occurs in the celebration of the Sacraments. (CCC 1330) 


Ch 7:17 You are a priest forever: Reception of each of the three degrees of Holy Orders leaves an indelible mark, or character, on the soul; like Baptism and Confirmation, it can, therefore, only be received once. This verse is used in the Rite of Holy Orders. (CCC 1563) 


Ch 7:18-19 While the priesthood in the Old Testament governed the offering of sacrifices to God and proclamation of the Mosaic Law, it was not a vehicle for salvation but rather a preparation for it. The Sacrifice offered by the one priesthood of Jesus Christ dispenses the grace of God and reconciles God and his people. This is accomplished through the Sacraments, particularly in the Eucharist, which represents Christ's Sacrifice. The priesthood of the New Testament, which is a direct sharing in Christ's high priesthood, is an effective means to administer the Sacraments that both heal and sanctify in the name of Jesus Christ. (CCC 1548) 


Ch 7:20-28 Christ is the one Eternal High Priest, our sole Mediator before God the Father and the human race. His priesthood is eternal, so his one Sacrifice suffices for all time, and through him we always have access to the Father and the salvation he won for us. (CCC 519, 662, 1085, 1364-1366, 2634) 


Ch 8:1-13 The Levites exercised their priesthood in a Temple made by human hands. The high priesthood of Jesus Christ, however, transcends any earthly temple since it is eternally exercised in a heavenly sanctuary at the right hand of the Father. While the Old Covenant was inscribed on stone, the New Covenant is written on the human heart, giving every person the grace to share in the sanctity of Christ manifested by charity. Jeremiah foretold the New Covenant that Christ would establish due to the Israelites' inability to keep the Old Covenant (cf. Jer 31:31-34). With the New Covenant, the faithful would receive the grace of salvation that would make it possible to live the requirements of the moral law established in the Old Covenant and give them the capacity to imitate Christ. (CCC 522, 1070-1072, 1956, 1965) 


Ch 8:13 In speaking... vanish away: The Temple was destroyed by the Romans AD 70, consequently ending the Levitical priesthood.

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you so much for this opportunity to be, once again, together. In these final days of the Bible in a Year we thank you for all the prayers that we have uttered on behalf of each other. We thank you for this time. There are no words, Lord God. We just thank you. We just thank you. Receive our hearts. Receive our praise. Receive the glory that belongs to you now and forever. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”