Christ Offers Himself for the Eternal Life of All

St. Paul, as he writes to the Hebrews in today’s Epistle reading (Heb 9:11-14), speaks to us about sacrifices and offerings. Specifically, he instructs the Jews on the shortcomings of the offerings they make compared to the sacrifice offered by, and found in, Jesus Christ. He reminds them that their sacrifices offered in the Temple were temporary, they satisfied the moment and were temporary. The sacrifice offered by Christ is eternal.

Before the Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem the people would bring appropriate offerings and the priest would make a sacrifice. On the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the high priest clothed in white would enter the Holy of Holies, the place in the Temple that no one was permitted to enter except the high priest on this feast, to sprinkle the blood of the calf that had been sacrificed. During this elaborate ceremony the high priest would confess his sins, the sins of the priests, and the sins of all Israel. As the ceremony comes to an end, a goat, symbolically carring the sins of Israel, was sent off into the wilderness never to return as an expression of the removal of sin. This goat became known as the scapegoat. The ceremony on the Day of Atonement was transactional, temporary and physical in nature.

Jesus Christ, on the other hand, as the High Priest, offered not the blood of a calf, but His own blood upon the Cross. He, as the High Priest, offered himself, ‘once and for all’ so that all may be saved. This sacrifice is not transactional. This sacrifice abounds with grace, mercy, and love and is eternal. In His crucifixion, the earthly curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the people was torn in two, opening the curtain to heaven and revealing to us the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and the offer of salvation in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

The forgiveness of sin is found in repentance, a change in our life. Thus, there is no longer the need to offer blood sacrifices and to use scapegoats. We need only to offer our hearts to Him and share in the love that He offers to us through the Cross and His Resurrection. As an expression of that love, we unite ourselves to Him through the Holy Eucharist.

St. Paul ends the epistle today, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (vs 14). We are reminded that faithfulness to Christ is found not just in the way we follow Him, but in how we serve Him and open our hearts to one another in love.