The first reading from Genesis today mentions Melchizedek. Name sound familiar? Who is this guy? Well, he only appears in the Bible in the brief reference in Genesis, in psalm 110 (which we hear fairly often), and in Hebrews. He is the King of Salem (an ancient name for Jerusalem), and a priest. But that shouldn’t raise eyebrows. In many ancient cultures, the King, Pharaoh, top ruler, even in the Roman Empire, Caesar, was also a high priest. What stands out in Genesis is the implication that Melchizedek was Canaanite, not a Hebrew, and that he is so shadowy – we are given so little information about him. That provided the opportunity for the author of Hebrews to fill in the blanks, projecting a variety of things on to him. We only know a little – so Hebrews moves to describe him as being without beginning or end. That leads to the leap that he and his priesthood are eternal. Today, the Melchizedek reference serves as a reminder that offerings to God, including bread and wine, have ancient roots. How ancient? In Eucharistic Prayer one captures well the progression from the beginning, and the universality. “Be pleased to look upon these offerings with a serene and kindly countenance, and to accept them as once you were pleased to accept the gifts of your servant Abel the just, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek ….”

Tuesday, May 31, 2016