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Dominica I Passionis - The Divine Priesthood of Christ

Latin Mass 2021  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  8:53
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PRESENTATION: Before Abraham was, I AM

“Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I AM. They took up stones therefore to cast at him.”
What suddenly filled this already hostile crowd with murderous rage that they were ready to stone Our Lord to death on the spot?
As far as the crowd is concerned, Our Lord has just committed the worst blasphemy possible, He referred to Himself with the Divine Name. “[A]ntequam Abraham fíeret, ego sum. [B]efore Abraham was made, I AM.”
This is certainly not the first or only time that Our Lord does this in St. John’s Gospel, in fact scripture scholars refer to the “I am” sayings in this Gospel to talk about the seven principle times that Our Lord uses these words connected to an image:
The Lexham Bible Dictionary “I Am” Sayings in John’s Gospel

• “I am the bread of life” (6:35, 48; see also 6:41, 51);

• “I am the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5);

• “I am the door” (10:7, 9);

• “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14);

• “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25);

• “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6);

• “I am the true vine” (15:1; see also 15:5).

The fact that St. John recounts the many times that Our Lord referred to Himself with these words is unique to his Gospel and its purpose. Unlike the other three synoptic gospels, St. John’s Gospel was not written as a tool for evangelization. St. John wrote his Gospel for those who were already Christian as a deeper spiritual reflection on the divinity of Christ, and so he pays special attention to those events in Our Lord’s life and ministry that highlight that fact.
St. John wants his readers to know that Jesus Christ is not only man, but God incarnate, because if He were not, there would be grave consequences.

EXPLANATION: Does Christ’s divinity matter?

Why does Our Lord’s divnity matter so much? Why did the Fathers of the Council of Nicea even come to blows when debating the subject? Because, if Jesus is not God, then we have a serious problem.
If Christ were merely a human being, as so many heretics over the centuries have claimed, would that change the validity of his teachings and public ministry? Not really.
If Jesus were merely a prophet sent by God to impart a prophetic message then His public ministry would no doubt have looked remarkably similar to what we have recorded in the three synoptic gospels. As we know, much of the Old Testament is composed of the writings of the various prophets that God sent to Israel delivering particular messages, and calling the nation to repentance.
Now you might be thinking, what about the prophetic actions that Our Lord performed? He did not just preach a message, He put His words into actions as well. He ate grain on the Sabbath to show that the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Law was wrong. He cleansed the temple to demonstrate the proper respect that one should have for the Lord’s house.
Well the prophets performed symbolic acts as well, just think of Jeremiah smashing the clay pot to warn the people of their impending destruction of they did not repent, or Hosea marrying a protitute as a symbol of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.
But, you might be saying to yourself, what about the miracles that Our Lord performed? The prophets performed them as well. Healing the sick? Elisha did that, just read the account of Naaman the Syrian. What about multiplying the loaves and fishes? Elisha did that too (though admittedly on a much smaller scale). What about raising the dead? Elijah did that.
In fact so many of Our Lord’s miracles are reminiscent of the actions of the ancient prophets that Our Lord is often referred to as a prophet by those who experience His miraculous touch.
So why does it matter whether Christ is divine or not? For that answer, we must turn to today’s Epistle:

11 But Christ, being come an high Priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hand, that is, not of this creation:

12 Neither by the blood of goats or of calves, but by his own blood, entered once into the Holies, having obtained eternal redemption.

If Christ were not divine, then His sacrifice on Calvary would mean nothing! When Adam and Eve committed the first sin, they offended the infinite all-powerful God, by transgressing His eternal law. Whenever we sin, we do the same. How could a mere human being ever hope to repair such an offence? In short, we couldn’t. There is absolutely nothing that we could do, no sacrifice we could make, no act we could perform to atone for even the slightest of venial sins. Only one who was like the Father in all things, only one who was divine and eternal like the Father could hope to make reparation for the sins of humanity.
So Christ took on human flesh at His Incarnation becoming one with us, but remaining one with the Father, so that His sacrifice could be the atonement for the whole world. He is the Divine Priest offering the Divine Sacrifice to the Father on our behalf.

IMPLICATION: Appropriating Christ’s sacrifice

Christ is the great divine High Priest who offered His Sacrifice to the Father in atonement for our sins. He did His part, but we must do ours as well. We must appropriate that sacrifice into our own lives, by the grace of God.
We have been offering sacrifices now throughout the Season of Lent, hopefully without faltering too badly, and today we begin the Passiontide, the final period of intense preparation for Easter, if ever there was a time for sacrifice it is now.
Because Christ’s Sacrifice is divine and eternal, offered for all who would willingly seek His mercy, we are able, by grace, to unite our own sacrifices to His without the barriers of place or time.
The Church has developed many customs and ways, over the centuries, by which we can do this each and every day:
When we begin our day, it is cutomary to start with a morning offering, and the traditional formula contains the words, “I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day”. This is called a “virtual intention”. It means that we do not need to consciously offer every sacrifice we make to God throughout the day, we make our intention at the beginning of each day to offer our sufferings to God.
Naturally, offering our sufferings consciously is much better, so that is why it is also important to offer some form of mortification during the day uniting it with Christ’s sacrifice.
When we come to Mass, there is an acient tradition of offering our own sacrifices and intentions at the offertory, prayerfully uniting them with the sacrifice of the Mass.
Finally, and perhaps most powerfully, we can unite our involuntary sufferings to Christ. If you grew up in a Catholic home, you probably heard the phrase “offer it up” quite often. It’s one thing to choose the sacrifices we make each day, and quite another to graciously accept the sufferings that come our way. By offering these sufferings as well, without grumbling or complaining, we make a far more powerful oblation.
Today, as we celebrate this Holy Mass at the beginning of Passiontide, let us thank Our Lord for his eternal sacrifice offered for us, and commit ourselves to offering all our sacrifices in union with His.
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