Monday, January 24, 2011

Christ's Priesthood: "Mediation Through Participation."

One of the unique features of the Letter to the Hebrews is the manner in which it refers to Jesus as "High Priest." In today's first reading for Daily Mass from Hebrews, the author speaks of Jesus having entered heaven "that he might now appear to God on our behalf." (Hebrews 9:24). The letter also refers to him as "mediator of a new covenant." (Hebrews 9:15). What are we to make of Jesus as "High Priest" and his role as intercessor and mediator?

To begin with, I think that it's helpful to approach the priestly images of Jesus in Hebrews in a figurative and symbolic sense and not literal. If we take the images of Hebrews literally, than the above images conjure up an idea of Jesus pleading our case before God like a defense attorney or sitting on a throne at God's right hand. Such images put God, Jesus, and even the Holy Spirit at some distance from our selves and our day-to-day affairs and may not be helpful to "tapping" the root reality of the Trinity inhibiting the depths of our lives, relationships, and world. There is also the danger that Christ's role as mediator is reduced to the lowest common denominator of making requests of him when we are in need.

The deeper reality being pointed to through the images of Jesus as High Priest and mediator in Hebrews is more along the lines of Jesus' Priesthood consisting of a "mediation through participation." This implies that Jesus' earthly and resurrected life is now deeply and inextricably woven into the fabric of what it means to be fully human (this "thread" running through our lives is the Holy Spirit). Therefore, following this line of thought to it's logical implications, Jesus "mediates" most powerfully for us when we likewise participate in the Paschal Mystery that he has passed on to us by giving our lives and very selves in love and service to others. The way that he "mediates" his new and Resurrected life for us is when we experience him walking behind, beside, and before us, sharing his companioning presence with us and empowering us to do the same for others. In this way, we likewise share in the ministry of Christ's priesthood and help "mediate" the promise that "all will be made new." Pat, TOR