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October 1988

For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. (Heb. 4:15)

The Word of Life this month presents Jesus as high priest.

St Paul points out that the high priest is 'appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God'. He is the representative of the people (Heb. 5:1). He is an intermediary with the job of interceding for and defending the cause of the people in relation to God. It is clear that in order to carry out his mission he must be both acceptable to God and be able to understand the needs of the people.

Jesus is the true, perfect priest, because since he is the Son of God and totally obedient to the Father's will, he is fully acceptable to God, and at the same time, since he became man and is like us he is able to understand us in depth and can take us to the Father.

For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.

It is the second aspect of Christ the high priest which is described in this month's Word of Life.

Jesus shares in all the consequences of our human condition since he became man. He really experienced limitations, tiredness, weakness, hunger, thirst, poverty, fear, anguish, the hostility of his opponents. When his passion was imminent he said 'my soul is very sorrowful' as St Mark reports (Mk. 14:33). Jesus experienced failure, abandonment and death, and although never sinning, he experienced the harshness of temptation.

For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.

This is how the Apostles who lived with Jesus and knew him well, described him. Perhaps their description does not match the way we imagine Jesus. Sometimes people think that because Jesus was the Son of God he could not have had a really human experience. If this were so Jesus would be far removed from us and would be practically beyond our reach. The facts tell us however that Jesus really experienced what we experience, but did not sin, and so Jesus can understand and help us in practical ways. (cf. Heb. 2:18, 5:7-9).

Jesus as the Son of God is certainly on God's side, but he is also totally on our side, as our brother who is moved by infinite compassion and wishes to help us in our weakness.

For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.

If this is how Jesus relates to us, how should we relate to him? We should show great love for him and trust him, with great hope.

If this is our attitude when we meet difficulties or opposition, and particularly when we fall, we can see that there is no point in looking back to the past, discouragement is banished, and we can demonstrate our trust, our great confidence in God's mercy, in the sure knowledge that he will help us with his grace and that we can hand over all our failings to his mercy.

Our way of living the Word of Life this month is to never allow ourselves to get discouraged. We should start afresh always. We should never grow tired of making resolutions and of making every effort we can. We should never stop.

Chiara Lubich

 

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