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FEAST OF CHRIST THE ETERNAL PRIEST

Hear, brothers and sisters, what loving words Jesus speaks to us today: “With great desire, have I desired to eat this pascha with you, before I suffer.”  It is the Lord who calls us here, out of his longing to be united to us.  Jesus exemplifies this call because he too was called.  Paul tells us this is a fundamental element of Christ’s priesthood: he is called by God from among the people.  Since the time of Aaron, God has chosen who will serve him at the altars.  It is important also that Jesus is called from among us – that is – from among humanity.  The Christ: the human face of God and the divine face of humanity.  Jesus participates in the dregs of our humanity in all things but sin, but more importantly he participates in our suffering.  It is this great condescension, AND ONLY THIS CONDESCENSION, that makes possible our salvation.  Thus the unbloody sacrifice of bread and wine is completed in the agony and tortured death of Christ on the cross.

This is the second fundamental element of Christ’s priesthood.  Hebrews recalls that Jesus did not just pray, he offered up supplications with cries and tears.  He learned not just patience by suffering but was made perfect.  This does not mean that Jesus was imperfect and out of his imperfection he became perfect.  My brothers and sisters, THERE IS A PERFECTION THAT RESULTS FROM HAVING ACTUALLY SUFFERED, and it is different from the perfection that results from being ready to suffer.  He “became” indicates a change in relationship that follows the perfecting.  The suffering that led to the perfecting did something.  What it did was REALIZE our salvation, uniting humanity with God by one perfect and living sacrifice. 

This is the privilege of those who follow Christ: to suffer with our Lord.  And yet there is a balm – we are not alone in our suffering.  For he calls out to us from the altars of the world: I long to eat this meal with you.  Take and eat.

 

Stephen Rugg

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