This is the 35th day of our Lenten journey, the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt. God bless you as you travel the path of repentance as we prepare to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection. Let’s look at today’s Sunday epistle reading, Hebrews 9:11-14.
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
Here the epistle to the Hebrews shows us the divine plan of God for all of human history; that is, God gave the Jews the temple and temple sacrifices according to the law in order to prepare them for the coming of His Son, Himself in the flesh, Who would be sacrificed for us to “purify our consciences from dead works to serve the living God.”
The temple of the old covenant was made by human hands, but the temple of the new covenant is not. The sacrifices of the old covenant were temporary and imperfect, but the sacrifice of the new covenant is perfect and “secures an eternal redemption.” On the cross, sacrifices are brought to an end, because the eternal plan of God was accomplished there.
Sacrificial animals were valuable to the people who brought them to the temple, and giving them to God meant that there was a cost to the person and the family. Imagine that a large percentage of your income and savings needed to be given away, burnt up, so that your sins would be forgiven. In the new covenant, the connection we have to the sacrificial lamb is mystical, sacramental, and spiritual. We didn’t give Jesus Christ up to be killed on the cross, He gave Himself up. There is no cost to us in order to believe and be saved.
The end of this week signals the beginning of Holy Week, the final part of the journey to the cross and the resurrection. It takes energy for us to engage with the value of the One who gave Himself for our sins, but let us come together (even if remotely) and find the strength to fill our hearts with the value of the One nailed to the Cross for our salvation.