So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him:
“You are my son;
this day I have begotten you”;
just as he says in another place:
“You are a priest forever
according to the order of Melchizedek.”
The writer to the Hebrews is keen to show us that Jesus Christ is our high priest. We don’t know for certain who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, but it has been the longstanding tradition of the Church that it was St. Paul, and I myself believe that it probably was, because in addition to being a cultured Roman citizen, Paul came from the background of being an extremely observant Jewish man, one who studied under Rabban Gamaliel (cf. Acts 22:3), who was perhaps the greatest doctor of the law and the Torah in the traditions of Judaism, and the Letter to the Hebrews was clearly written by someone who understood the Hebrew priesthood and how the Sacrifice of Christ relates to it.
And so this passage tells us that we can approach Christ for mercy because he offered the ultimate gift and the ultimate sacrifice for us to God in mediation for us and our sins and weaknesses: He offered himself. At every Mass we commemorate and we renew that Sacrifice as we offer His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity through the actions of the priest on the altar. We are reminded that the Eucharist is our Sacrifice of Love, given to us by Christ the High Priest, and he first gave it to the Church at the Last Supper.
In addition, however, the writer of Hebrews makes an interesting statement about priests when he says “Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness.” In this Holy Week when we remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for the sake of our salvation, we also recall that it was during that first Holy Week that ordained ministry in the Church-the Sacrament of Holy Orders-was first inaugurated.
This statement should serve as a reminder to everyone that our priests-and deacons-are not perfect people. Indeed, it is the nature of ministry in the Church that the Lord chooses imperfect and sometimes sinful men for His work. It is true that those of us who have been blessed to be ordained should be held to a higher standard, but it is also true that priests and deacons need the prayers and support of all the People of God, because without that support, those who minister could not do what they do effectively. As Christ is our high priest, let us pray that all of those who minister in the Church in His name will be conformed to Christ the Servant and Christ the Priest, and that we will all be reminded that we are part of the common priesthood of all believers, all called to the holiness and dignity of Christ’s priesthood, to be an example of Christ to the world.