Meditations on today’s readings
by Fr Alban FSDM
For some of the priests of our Fraternity today is the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, but preparing this meditation I find that in the Ordinary Form of the Mass it is the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time. What is the link? Is there a link? It appears that there is.
When we heard read the second reading at Mass today we heard the words spoken of our blessed Lord, “You are my son: this day I have begotten you;” and “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”. Two phrases from the Psalms which we believe point forward to the Christ. The first phrase from Psalm 2 verse 7 states that our blessed Lord is the son of God. Psalm 109 from which the second phrase is taken is a psalm pointing forward for the assurance of Victory for God’s Priest-King. Here is the link, Jesus, our blessed Lord, is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
But who is Melchizedek? Why is he important? He is the first person in the Bible to be explicitly identified as a priest (Genesis 14.18), indeed throughout all of Genesis he is the only person to be identified as a priest of ‘God the Most High’ the God that Abraham knows as ‘the Lord’. Secondly, he is identified as the king of Salem (Gen. 14.18). Salem is Jerusalem the holy city (see Ps. 75.2). Thirdly, Melchizedek ministers to Abraham as a priest not just by blessing him but by bringing forth bread and wine. We remember this giving of bread and wine in the Mass during the Roman Canon, “be pleased to look upon these offerings… and to accept them, as once you were pleased to accept… the offering of your high priest Melchizedek.”
Melchizedek was a priest in the patriarchal order that existed long before the ordination of Aaron and his sons took place at Mount Sinai (Lev. 8.1-36). This is the original form of priesthood in an age of natural religion. Priestly authority was rooted in the family and exercised by the father whose sons inherited it particularly the first-born.
Melchizedek is identified with the patriarch Shem by many ancient sources. Noted theologians including Alcuin and Peter Lombard found insight in the this identification. There is a parallel between Melchizedek, first-born of Noah, and Jesus, the Father’s “first-born” (Heb. 1.6).
All of this points forward to our blessed Lord being both Priest and King. For much of the Old Testament period these two offices were in different families: Aaron and his descendents from the tribe of Levi were the priests and David and his descendants from the tribe of Judah were the kings. However if our Lord is both ‘my beloved Son’ and ‘a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’ then He wear the crowns of both ruling and religious authority. He truly is our Priest and our King.
Jesus, our blessed Lord, is Priest and King of all. The first reading at Mass makes this clear. In the great return from Exile none was excluded, from the north and from all over the earth they are to come, the blind, the lame, and those with child will be gathered together. It is a picture of universal participation. Our blessed Lord seeks to exclude no-one from his Kingdom. In the Gospel, He includes even Bartimaeus, the blind man by the wayside, that the many told to be quiet. Bartimaeus knew that Jesus was the Son of David – that he was the King. And he called out to him, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me”. Our blessed Lord called Bartimaeus and asked what he wanted. He said that he wanted to see. The Priest-King told him “Go your way: your faith has saved you.” and his sight was restored.
When we have faith like Bartimaeus, when we recognise our blessed Lord both as our High Priest and as our King, we will find that He will do great things for us. We will be able to truly say the response from the Psalm this morning, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”