Second Reading: Hebrews 9:11-15

The Eternal Sacrifice

Popular Translation

11-12 Christ appeared as the High Priest of all the good that happened. Once and for all, he entered the perfect Holy place to worship God. This was not a place build by people, for it is not of this world. When he worshiped God, he did not sacrifice animals. No, he offered his own blood and forever gained our freedom in the eyes of God.

13 How were sinful people were made holy in the past? The priests in the Temple sprinkled the blood or ashes of sacrificed animals on them. But, through the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ gave himself to God as a pure offering. Now, the blood of Christ cleanses our conscience from all our deadly actions, so we can serve the living God!

15 Jesus acts as our "go-between" with God under his new covenant. Because of this, the death of Christ freed us from the sins we committed under the first covenant. And, we, whom God called, can receive the eternal reward he promised.

Literal Translation

11 Christ, having arrived (as) high priest of the good (events) that have happened into the greater and more complete tent, not handmade, this is not of this creation, 12 not through the blood of goats and calves but through his own blood, entered the Holy (place) once and for all, having found eternal redemption. 13 For if sprinkling the base with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of (sacrificed) heifers sanctifies towards the "cleansing" of the flesh, 14 how much more the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without fault, will cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 This (man) is the mediator of (the) new covenant, so that, as (his) death happened for the redemption from the transgressions of the first covenant, (those) having been called (by God) might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

9:11-12 This long sentence can be divided into status, place, activity, and result. Rearranged, the sentence can be translated as: "As High Priest of the good that has happened, Christ entered the greater and perfected Holy of Holies, having established eternal redemption through his blood, not the blood of calves and goats."

The phrase "greater and more complete tent" used the comparative (better) to express the superlative (best). Hence, "perfect" could be used instead of " greater and more complete ." Of course, the "perfect Holy of Holies" in the mind of the author and audience would have been in heaven.

9:13 "the base" is literally "those having been made common." The term "common" was derogatory, in the sense of "base, sinful (almost sub-human)." Such common people needed redemption so they could worship God. 9:13 referred to the "sin offerings" in the Temple cult, that made the "unclean clean."

9:14 "without fault" is literally "unblemished."

These verses from Hebrews continued to put forth one of the themes from the letter: the eternal high priesthood of Jesus Christ. While the Letter to the Hebrews cannot be dated exactly, we can assume the letter was written after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Sensing a loss in his Jewish Christian audience, the author could have used the theme of divine high priesthood to comfort his audience. But, by developing this theme, he was also pointing the way to the understanding Christians had for their own worship (found most clearly in Revelations). The earthly community gathered around the heavenly worship of Christ.

As Christ offered himself to the Father (beginning on the cross), he entered into the heavenly "Holies of Holies." Notice, place also pointed to the time frame. As locale of Calvary became transcendent and universal, the one time death of Jesus on the cross became eternal. This is the import of the phrase, "once and for all," unlike the ongoing sacrifice system in the Temple (to which the author compared the death of Christ).

As the priest, the place, and the activity of Christ's turned the particular into the universal and eternal, the result led to the transcendent. Christians, would receive an eternal inheritance and forever serve the living God. They would turn away from our dead works (notice the word "dead" not only referred to the unless, selfish nature of the acts; the word also paralleled the Jewish notion that foreign idols were "dead," unlike the living God of the Jews; in other words, sin is an act of idolatry). Faith in God allowed them to partake in the heavenly, eternal self-giving of the Christ.

From this point, we can see Christians would soon view their worship as a participation in the worship Jesus gave to the Father. Their self-giving became his. Their prayer and his prayer became one.

When we worship at Mass on Sunday, let us remember the view point of Hebrews. When we pray and share communion, we become one with Christ as he worships the Father.

Prepare to worship this Sunday. Use your weekly prayer as a guidepost that points you to Mass.