Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Central to the argument that Jesus has replaced the Levitical priesthood is the character of Melchizedek. By harking back to this obscure figure from the Book of Genesis, the sacred writer of the Letter to the Hebrews shows that the priesthood has its roots in someone other than Aaron and the tribe of Levi.
Melchizedek was the king of Salem (Jerusalem). When Abraham and his "army" return victorious from doing battle, Melchizedek fears that the marauders will also plunder his city as they pass by. Rather than wait to see what Abraham will do, Melchizedek goes out to meet them and offers bread and wine for their refreshment. In return for this gesture of peace, Abraham shares a tenth of all that he has seized from his enemies with this priest/king. (This is the beginning of the practice of tithing.) This whole incident is covered in three short verses of chapter fourteen of the Book of Genesis. Yet the man is still remembered for this gesture of peace or self-preservation, depending upon your interpretation of his actions. He is mentioned in Psalm 110 and quite extensively in the Letter to the Hebrews.
This simple action of peace is still remembered whenever we celebrate the Eucharist. Bread and wine have taken on the symbolic nature of peace and redemption. Melchizedek is remembered for "redeeming" his city, saving his city from the band of marauders. That bread and wine become the food that redeems us, saves us, from sin. Jesus, who offers his body and blood under the appearances of bread and wine, is forever linked to this otherwise insignificant character from Jewish history. According to Psalm 110, all priests are in the "order of Melchizedek," whether or not they are of the tribe of Levi.
In our prayer today, let us remember all priests, especially those who serve as spiritual advisor of CUSA.