Hebrews 7: 1-3, 15-17: “…His name (Melchizedek) first means righteous king, and he was also ‘king of Salem,’ that is, king of peace. Without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever...”
Psalm 110: 1, 2, 3, 4: “…You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Mark 3: 1-6: Jesus says, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored….”
Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and martyr (perhaps 292-305) A beautiful young women, she remained committed to her life with Christ despite various offers of marriage. She became a martyr for her faith at the hands of Roman authorities at the age of twelve or thirteen. One of the men, pursuing her hand in marriage turned against her when she refused to marry him and he turned her into the pagan Roman authorities for being a Christian. Various attempts to persuade her, only left her more determined to remain a bride for Christ. Her actual means of death is not certain, but is assumed to be by fire or by the sword. We thank God for such courage in this young person. She is counted among those who kept our faith alive, even when it was not safe to do so. May the courage of this young Christian be an inspiration to all of those whose faith is challenged.
In two of today’s readings, from both the Letter to the Hebrews, and in Psalm 110 we hear the priestly name Melchizedek, to whom Christ, our High Priest forever, is being compared. Having heard that name all my life, I realized I didn’t know very much about him. So, I looked to the Collegeville Bible Commentary and Scott Hahn’s Ignatius Catholic Study bible to find out about the significance of this priest from the Old Testament.
Melchizedek, a Canaanite priest is first mentioned in Genesis 14, when he blesses Abram (later called Abraham), upon his victorious return from battle. Abram hearing about the siege that pits five kings against four kings, and the capture of his nephew assembles a force to get him back. He is successful in this effort and the nephew, Lot, is brought back along with all the possessions that had been taken, including other people. On his return, the priest, Melchizedek gives Abram a blessing; and Abram gives the priest a tenth of his capture. The remainder of which, Abram gives back to the king from whom they were seized, save an amount to pay those who helped him win the battle. “Genesis implies the order of Melchizedek is the patriarchal order of priesthood that functioned for many centuries before the ordination of Aaron and his sons took place at Mount Sinai.” (Ignatius Study Bible, The Letter to the Hebrews [ISB,H], Pg. 25)
Melchizedek’s beginning and end are never revealed, and we know he did not have to observe the Levitical priesthood laws including the age restrictions where the priestly ministry began at 30 and ended at 50. (ISB,H,Pg. 24). Jesus’ “no beginning” and “without end” is literal; and he is the fulfillment of the new covenant with the people. He is our High Priest forever, even though he did not have a tie to the Levitical priestly lineage of Aaron either. Melchizedek was significant to the audience at that time, because of his association with Abraham, even though he was not a Jew.
As we jump to the Gospel reading in Mark, we see Jesus being frustrated by those who are watching him care for a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. The Pharisees observance of laws rather than their caring for one another’s physical and spiritual needs were a constant frustration to Jesus. How many times does he get frustrated with us, with me? The Teacher asks,“Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Unfortunately, the Pharisees walked away holding onto their letter of the law understanding. Rules are necessary, but I pray we grow in wisdom and understanding with this new covenant life, so as to not get tangled up with the rules. Amen
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