In those days, Elijah the prophet went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was gathering sticks there; he called out to her, "Please bring me a small cupful of water to drink." She left to get it, and he called out after her, "Please bring along a bit of bread." She answered, "As the Lord, your God, lives, I have nothing baked; there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug. Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and to prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die." Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid. Go and do as you propose. But first make a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son. For the Lord, the God of Israel, says, "The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.""
She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.(P) The word of the Lord.
The Lord keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free. (R)
The Lord gives sight to the blind; the Lord raises up those who were bowed down. The Lord loves the just; the Lord protects strangers. (R)
The fatherless and the widow he sustains, but the way of the wicked he thwarts. The Lord shall reign forever; your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia. (R)
Brothers and sisters: Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice.
Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.(P) The word of the Lord.
In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds, "Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the market places, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation."
He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.
Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
There is a story of a married couple attending a cocktail party. After exchanging greetings with his friends, the husband returns to his wife and looks at her intently and says, "Oh! It is amazing how three glasses of champagne can transform you!" The wife says, "But... I haven't had any drink!" "But I have", the husband says.
Today's second reading reminds us that all mankind even those who haven't heard of Jesus or haven't been baptized into Christ have to acknowledge that God exists, and that God's only begotten Son Jesus Christ has died for all, and that Jesus' life, death and resurrection has transformed the life of all people, and that reconciliation with God has been made possible by Jesus' sacrifice.
We have been reading the letter to the Hebrews for five weeks now. But in case you have missed it or failed to pay attention to it or have forgotten what you have heard, let me summarize what we have read so far from the letter. We do not really know for sure who wrote the letter. We do know, however, that it was written by someone, who knew the Old Testament scriptures and observed Jewish rituals, to a church under persecution in the first century. The purpose of the letter was to deepen their understanding of Jesus Christ and to encourage them in their faith. So the writer explains in detail the eternal and unchanging nature of Jesus Christ.
In the first week the writer described the greatness of our Lord Jesus Christ. He said that Jesus Christ is truly God but for a short time, was made lower than the angels so that He could become man and experience all that we experience. Moreover, He suffered and died to free us from sin and make us true and loving children of God. In the second week, the writer pointed out the power of the word of God. He said that the word of God, which is God Himself and which became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ, is fully alive and active. That is to say, God's word has the power and authority to transform our life, and expose our innermost thoughts and desires.
In the third week, the writer spoke of the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. He urged us to approach God confidently so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need for He knows our weaknesses. In the fourth week the writer explained that Jesus did not take upon Himself the position of high priest but was made a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek for he was sinless, Psalm (110:4).
Last week he made a comparison between Jesus the Great High Priest and the priests of the Old Testament. He said that unlike the priests who descended from the priestly tribe of Levi and offered prescribed sacrifices for their own sins and the sins of others to establish a right relationship with God, Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.
In today's text elaborating on the theme of sacrifice, the writer refers back to a Jewish religious ritual of killing and the offering of animals for their own sins to appease God's wrath against them, and to show them how Jesus' own sacrifice brought an end to animal sacrifices. He writes, "Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the word. But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice."
What does the writer mean? The temple in Jerusalem was a symbol of God's presence among the Jewish people. Its special feature was a room at the center of the temple which is called the sanctuary. It was the most holy place. It was separated from the rest of the temple by walls on three sides and a thick curtain in front. From the time of Moses, on the tenth day of the seventh month the Jews observed a solemn and major fast which is called the Day of Atonement. The day was also meant for self-examination, introspection and reconciliation with God and others. That's to say, it was a sacred day to ask God's forgiveness for sins and make amends. How was it done?
On the Day of Atonement the high priest would slaughter a lamb; collect some blood of the lamb; enter the sanctuary and sprinkle the lamb's blood on a gold-covered wooden chest, called The Ark of the Covenant which contained the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. The belief was when God peered down from heaven, He would not see the Ten Commandments or their sins. In other words, the blood of that sacrificial animal covered up the guilt or washed away the sins of the people. And the sacrifice was repeated year after year.
But the writer says that with the coming and sacrifice of Jesus as the Lamb of God, the ultimate remedy for sin was accomplished. Our sins are expiated through Jesus Christ's sacrifice once and for all. Because Jesus' sacrifice was not an ordinary animal sacrifice but a gracious divine sacrifice that reveals the depths of God's love for his wayward children. God Himself, in the person of His Son Jesus, shed his own blood to wash away our sins and cleanse us from shame.
What is the message for us today?
After receiving the Holy Eucharist, kneel and pray to Jesus. Do not hurry off. Do not leave the church almost immediately after receiving the Holy Eucharist. Instead let us make full use of the time spent with our Lord to obtain virtues and great spiritual blessings.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!