Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Genesis 17: 3-9
Psalm 104: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 (R. 8a)
John 8: 51-59
Christ our Priest
On this Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent, the last Thursday before Holy Week, the Roman Missal gives an Entrance Antiphon drawn not from the Psalms, but from the Letter to the Hebrews. “Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant, that by means of His death, they that are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb 9:15). The mediatorship of Christ, our High Priest fills us with hope: “A fuller hope has been brought into our lives, enabling us to come close to God” (Heb 7:19).
Through Christ and in Christ
The Roman Gradual gives an Introit from the Book of the Prophet Daniel: “Every thing that Thou hast done to us, Thou hast done in true judgment, for we have sinned against Thee, and we have not hearkened to Thy commandments, but give glory to Thy name, O Lord, and deal with us according to the multitude of Thy mercies” (Dan 3: 31, 29, 30, 43, 42). Here again, the mediatorship of Christ is evoked, albeit implicitly: it is through Christ that the name of the Father is glorified, and it is in Christ that the Father deals with us according to multitude of His mercies.
The Father Sees Us Through the Wounds of Christ
Covenant means coming together. Christ, our Priest and Head, offering His Precious Blood on our behalf, “enables us to come close to God” (Heb 7:1919), by bringing us with Him into the presence of the Father. “The sanctuary into which Jesus has entered is not one made by human hands, is not some adumbration of the truth; he has entered heaven itself, where he now appears in God’s sight on our behalf” (Heb 9:24). The Father looks at our faces through the Face of His Beloved Son. The Father looks at our hands, defiled by sin, through His pierced Hands. The Father looks into our hearts, impure and divided, through the Heart of Jesus, opened by the soldier’s lance.
The Blood of Christ
“Shall not the blood of Christ, who offered himself, through the Holy Spirit, as a victim unblemished in God’s sight, purify our consciences, and set them free from lifeless observances, to serve the living God?” (Heb 9:14). The Father, seeing us sprinkled with the Precious Blood of the Lamb, accepts us and, through His Son, draws us to Himself. “But now, you are in Christ Jesus; now, through the Blood of Christ, you have been brought close, you who were once, so far away” (Eph 2:13). This is the meaning of the New Covenant: in the Blood Christ God has come out to us; and we, in the Blood of Christ, have gone out to God. No longer can the Father look upon His Son without seeing us, the members of His Mystical Body. No longer can He look at us without seeing the Bride “clothed in readiness for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb” (Ap 19:7), the Church “for whom Christ gave Himself up, that he might sanctify her” (Eph 5:25-26). The Blood of Christ authorizes us to pray with boldness. Lips sanctified by the Blood of Christ can dare to say, “Abba, Father!”
Sons in the Son
In the Gospel, Our Lord speaks to us of His eternal communion with the Father. “I know Him,” he says (Jn 8:55). He knows the Father from the beginning: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). Christ, by virtue of his Eternal Priesthood, draws us after Him into thrice-holy sanctuary of His communion with the Father, in the Holy Spirit. He shares with us His own Heart’s knowledge of the Father by making us sharers, by grace, in His divine sonship. Blessed Abbot Marmion frequently repeated that, “we are by grace what He, Christ, is by nature.” We are sons in Christ the Son, priests in Christ the Priest.
The only response adequate to the grace of our divine adoption is adoration: the “adoration in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24) that the Father Himself seeks. Eucharistic adoration draws us into the sonship of Christ and into the mystery of His mediation, that is, of His victimal priesthood. A foundress of the last century wrote: “In spite of my misery, or rather because of it, I ceaselessly rejoice that the most pure Host, the radiant Host that gives strength, should be exposed among us every Thursday.” At Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and in many other monasteries, Thursday, the day of the Priesthood and of the Eucharist, is marked by exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Into the Inner Sanctuary, Beyond the Veil
The practice of Eucharistic adoration on Thursday is an incentive and a great grace, one that, if we are docile and open, will carry us into the heart of the Paschal Mystery, into “that inner sanctuary beyond the veil, which Jesus Christ, our escort, has entered already, a high priest now, eternally with the priesthood of Melchisedech” (Heb 6:19-20).