In Jewish worship, even before the construction of the Temple, sacrifices were prescribed in which the shedding and sprinkling of blood was performed for the expiation of sin. Once a year the Day of Atonement was celebrated, when the high priest would bring the blood from a sacrifice into the innermost part of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, where at one point the Ark of the Covenant was kept. The Holy of Holies was only entered once a year. The Letter to the Hebrews today reminds us that both this arrangement and blood being shed and sprinkled for sin were a foreshadowing of the true Holy of Holies (Heaven), and the blood of Christ, shed for us and now received whenever we receive the Eucharist in Holy Communion. Our Lord performed this atonement by bringing his own blood and the sacrifice of himself into Heaven to present them to God the Father for our sins; one day, by the grace of God, we will make that one definitive entry into the true Holy of Holies to joyfully worship the Lord forever.
In today’s Gospel Our Lord’s relatives are convinced that he’s gone crazy, surrounded by crowds of people that leave him no time even to eat and maintaining an insane work rhythm. Our Lord was prepared to lay down his life for others, so the accelerated pace of his earthly ministry in retrospect shouldn’t come as a surprise: it was only a prelude to the sacrifice of his life that he’d make for all of humanity. Our high priest is now in Heaven, where he’s taken the sacrifice and blood that wipes away all our sins and, as today’s First Reading reminds us , “cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” Thanks to him we can worship God again and worship him with the right dispositions.
In every celebration of the Eucharist let’s unite our hearts to Our Lord through his bishop or priest so that we too can worthily worship our Father in Heaven.
Readings: Hebrews 9:2–3, 11–14; Psalm 47:2–3, 6–9; Mark 3:20–21.