In two of these readings we hear the name Melchizedek,
and we also hear that name in the Eucharistic Prayer.
So we might ask, who the heck is Melchizedek?
As the passage says, he was a king, the king of Salem,
which we know better as Jerusalem.
The word “Melchizedek” means “king of righteousness”;
“Salem” means peace, so he is also, “king of peace.”
An even more important detail: he is a priest;
he offers a sacrifice of bread and wine. Note well: bread and wine.
Early in the first book of the Bible,
we have a foreshadowing of Jesus himself,
of the priesthood he would establish,
of the Holy Mass, and of the Eucharist.
On this feast established to celebrate the gift of the Eucharist,
it is fitting to point out that these three things all go together:
The priesthood; the Mass; and the Eucharist.
It is all a package deal.
What is essential to priesthood is that a priest offers sacrifice;
by virtue of offering sacrifice,
the priest is a mediator between God and humanity.
But if there is no sacrifice, there is nothing special a priest brings.
The sacrifice which Christian priests offer is the Holy Mass.
The Mass is not primarily about the readings or the homily.
Rather, the Mass is essentially about the altar;
Or, to put it more bluntly, the Mass is really the Cross.
What happened on the Cross is made present on the altar.
This is why, traditionally, the altar was elevated, so it is central;
so that everyone’s gaze naturally goes there.
This is why it matters that we do things with reverence and dignity.
It’s why our altar servers’ role is so important.
It’s why how we behave here, how we dress and act, matters.
As many know, the Church went through a period of madness
in recent decades, in which our churches were wrecked
and the Mass was celebrated with all the decorum of a backyard picnic.
To this day, we sometimes bring a minimalistic attitude.
If only Father can hurry things along! Do the minimum.
Can you imagine being at Calvary, Jesus is on the Cross,
And saying to him, “Lord, can we hurry this along?”
The fact is, when you are at Mass, you ARE at Calvary!
That is the most important thing to know about the Mass.
If you understand nothing else about Mass, wake up to that fact!
And to those who complain about having to be at Mass –
which means, remember, being at Calvary – each and every week,
I respond: “have to”? Have to? You and I GET to be at Calvary!
In fact, if you want, you can be at Calvary, with Jesus on the Cross,
every single day, at daily Mass!
Jesus’ mother Mary and the Apostle John and Mary Magdalene
and a few others were with Jesus at the Cross;
then when St. Peter and the other Apostles offered Holy Mass
the first time, they were there as well.
Do you ever wonder what St. Peter was thinking and feeling,
As he celebrated Holy Mass? He could have been at Calvary,
but he wasn’t there, because of his cowardice.
The whole point of the Mass is to enable you and me really to be there.
And just because someone drops a hymnal, or cell phones go off,
or maybe the people near you don’t sing very well,
or the priest talks too long and is plain boring…
None of that changes the fundamental reality;
And none of that prevents you from experiencing the truth,
the reality of the Holy Mass;
I’ll say it again: you are really at the Cross with Jesus!
And if we don’t get that, then we miss what the Eucharist is.
I’m going to be blunt here: a lot of people just go through the motions.
Sit, kneel, stand, go up front;
get the white thing and put it in my mouth, go back,
sit, stand, and go home.
When you and I take the Eucharist,
that means we are uniting ourselves to the sacrifice.
When you and I take the Body and the Blood,
we are saying a lot of things all at once:
- That we are prepared to live for Jesus, united with Jesus,
living and dying with him. It means we’re “all in.”
- It means we’ve been to confession if we have any mortal sin.
- It means we accept the Cross as the shape of our own lives;
- Being all about giving ourselves, just as Jesus did;
- Embracing trials and suffering as being full of hope,
even as the Cross is ultimately about hope.
In other words, bringing the Body and Blood of Jesus to your lips
is a solemn moment; nothing actually is more solemn, more serious.
If you are married, your vows come close;
If you were sworn into the military, or swore an oath in court,
that is a pretty big deal, but nothing compared to this!
If you receive Holy Communion today at Mass,
this could be the last time you ever do. This is it!
That can be true for any of us.
Receive the Holy Eucharist, the gift of Jesus’ own self,
offered on Calvary, if you are prepared to do so.
But if you do, recognize what you do!
Realize what a powerful moment this is. There is no other moment.
Here is Jesus; he gives his all to you. There is nothing else.