Pentecost is coming as the fullness of the Church is manifest with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus giving them strength of faith to spread the Church to the world. This Sunday Jesus’ ministry reached new heights; as he became our High Priest before the throne of the Father. Hebrews says that Christ “lives to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25).
Blessings by priests were familiar to the Jewish people. Daily at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., according to the Law of Moses, Jewish priests celebrated tamid (perpetual offering, Ex. 29:38-41). One group of priests placed lamb, bread, and wine on the altar as other priests led the people in reciting the Ten Commandments, the Shema, and the psalm for that day. The tamid concluded with priests gathered on the steps of the Holy Place, extending their arms toward the people with the blessing God gave to Moses and Aaron: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you: the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26).
As the apostles saw Jesus ascend into heaven, in the act of blessing, they understood that he was “climbing the steps” of the true Holy of Holies. During the tamid, one priest entered the Holy Place to burn incense before the earthly Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies and only once a year on the Feast of Atonement. The apostles saw Jesus go up into a cloud, a symbol of God’s presence (Acts 1:9; Ex. 13:31-32, 24:16-18; Num. 9:15-23). They understood that Jesus was entering the heavenly throne room, to which the earthly Holy of Holies pointed (Ex. 25:9, 40; Heb. 8:5).
The Old Testament’s many sacrifices are fulfilled in Jesus’ priesthood as he offers himself to the Father, in his humanity and divinity. Hebrews and the Book of Revelation show Jesus, the Lamb of God, making perpetual offering to the Father (Heb. 7:25, 9:24; Rev. 5:6-14). He draws angels and saints, in the heavenly liturgy, to offer themselves through, with, and in him (Rev. 4:6-5:14).
This one liturgy breaks into our midst. Through the sacrament of ordination, Christ presides in the person of his priest and the fulfillment of Israel’s tamid is the consecration of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lamb of God. Yes, we receive Christ himself as we participate in the perpetual liturgy before the throne of the Father.
The radical truth of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is that Jesus is present perpetually offering himself to the Father and making us one in his Body and Blood. Each Mass in various parishes is not “our Mass” and “their Mass”. We participate in one heavenly liturgy. I regret that I cannot be with each community every Sunday, but I rejoice that Jesus ascended into heaven as our eternal High Priest. This was necessary so that the Holy Spirit could descend upon the Church. As we approach Pentecost, please pray for unity in the Church and that the fire of love of the Sacred Heart will move us to generosity, peace and unity.
Your servant in Christ, Father Paul