In the letter to the Hebrews, the author affirms Jesus as High Priest according to the Order of Melchizedek.
When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel. Therefore, all must listen with reverence to the readings from God’s word, for they make up an element of greatest importance in the Liturgy. Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture God’s word is addressed to all people of every era and is understandable to them, nevertheless, a fuller understanding and a greater effectiveness of the word is fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, the Homily, as part of the liturgical action.
The Homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to the deacon, but never to a lay person. In particular cases and for a just cause, the Homily may even be given by a Bishop or a priest who is present at the celebration but cannot celebrate.
The first Homilist was the sacrificial lamb Himself, Jesus Christ. The cross is the altar on which the priest consecrates the bread and wine, changing it into the body and blood of Our Lord by Transubstantiation. The Sacrifice of the Mass is not a recreation of the crucifixion, because Christ could only die but once. It is a conjoining of the then and the now. Christ’s one-time sacrifice at Calvary is made present during the Eucharistic Liturgy.
Christ’s Homily from the cross is in His “Last Seven Words.”
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34
Here Christ tells us that ignorance is the prerequisite for forgiveness. Should one not know that one is in violation of some rule, then one cannot be held responsible. There were many who had no understanding of who Christ was; and in that, exhibited ignorance. Christ was sent into the world for the expressed purpose of forgiveness. To cleanse from mankind the stain of Original Sin. As sunlight shines upon all, the good and the bad; so, too, does the Light Of The World shine His light on the righteous and the sinner.
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:34
In Christ’s promise to the good thief, that he would enter Heaven with Him this day, Christ forgives those who are aware of their sins, as well. The good thief knew exactly what he did in life, and in his acknowledgement of Christ’s innocence, justly spoke in defense of that innocence. Christ, in that instant, heard the good thief’s confession and forgave him; extending the invitation, welcoming him to heaven. In that moment the good thief’s life was amended.
“Jesus said to His mother: “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple: “This is your mother.” – John 19:26-27
Here Christ does not solely turn over His mother to John’s care, but also solidifies the role of each in His Mystical Body, The Church. Christ upon that cross confers a marriage. A marriage in which He is the head of the church, Mary is the Mother of the church and John is the first-born of the church. And at Pentecost the church would have grown to 120 members. No one need ever be alone. For in the Church one finds a brother in Christ and mother in Mary; Holy Mother Church.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
Christ knows abandonment. He was human in every way, save for sin. He felt the dark force of our temptations, and bore the sins of the world that were committed through man’s unsuccessful rejection thereof. He felt what it must be like for us, when separated from God through sin. While on the cross, Christ was under the immeasurable weight of all the sins ever committed and yet to be committed. Where there is sin, God is not. So Christ’s feeling of abandonment is found in all those suffering affliction and addiction who believe they have been forgotten. He now stands in for the despairing, assuring them that the God of mercy, love, forgiveness and peace, is ready to receive all who will turn to Him with a contrite heart.
“I thirst.” – John 19:28
Here Christ is not seeking to satisfy a physical need, but rather spiritual fulfillment. God is love. And the Son of God can be no more, nor less, than God the Father. He thirsted not for water, but rather for our love. Yet those to whom He gave of Himself in sacrifice for their salvation; instead of gratitude, offered their wrath. How much more must that pain inflicted have seemed, knowing that it was delivered by those whom He loved?
Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” – Luke 23:46
All of us are born into this world, naturally, through our parents, by the love of God. The power within us that sustains our lives and motivates our good works are from Him. Christ offered up His spirit to God, the Father, because our lives are but a gift from God and it is only fitting that that gift should be returned to the One who is Divine all perfect love. As Saint Augustine said: “You have made us for yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” We are because He is.
When Jesus had received the wine, He said, “It is finished.” Jesus then bowed His head and gave up His spirit.- John 19:29-30
The Old Testament Book of Daniel describes 456 prophesies that would be fulfilled by the Messiah. Jesus, from His birth in Bethlehem to the cross on Calvary, would fulfill every prophesy in time and place. The odds in fulfilling those prophesies has been calculated to be in the millions of trillions. In His words: “It is finished,” refers not necessarily, as one would assume, to the successful execution of the crucifixion, but rather, that all conditions of the mission that God had planned in reconciling Himself to Man had been completed in every way. What was finished on the cross would be validated in three days, when the risen Glorified Christ emerged from the tomb. He removed the sting from death for all mankind in saying: “We would do what He has done.” “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” – John 11:25
The Homily from the cross can best be expressed in a quote from Charles Dickens’, “A Tale of Two Cities.” When Sydney Carlton dies on the guillotine in place of Charles Darnay, he says: “It’s a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It’s a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.” “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13
Christ’s Homily was delivered from the cross, which served as His pulpit. And that homily proclaimed a simple message. He came into the world, by the power of God’s love, to forgive sins, thereby restoring the bond between man and God. He turned the world upside down, to turn it right side up. He taught that to have everything, you must give up everything; to be filled, you must empty yourself; to live, you must die to self. All being accomplished by love in obedience to God’s will.
“Just as the disobedience of one man the many were constituted sinners, so also by the obedience of the one the many will be constituted just.” – Romans 5:19