OK, so today’s OT reading is a little mundane and a little hard to get through. It’s a lot of instructions on how to concrete Aaron and his sons to the Jewish priesthood and set up the tent that will hold the Ark of the Covenant. But did you catch what is to be offered daily to God?
“Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. 39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. 40 And with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering.
So everyday there will be two main offerings of a lamb with bread and wine. Sound familiar? This is the Passover. This is the Last Supper. This is what we still to today “in remembrance of him.” Only today, we offer the true lamb under the appearance of bread and wine.
Today we also read Matthews account of the scene where Jesus is anointed with the expensive oil / ointment. Matthew tells us that all the disciples thought that this was a waste and the expensive oil could have been better used by being sold and the proceeds given to the poor. Jesus rebukes them and promises that here loving gesture to him will always be remembered.
Some people today criticize the Church of being to opulent. For having cathedrals that are to big and chalices made of gold, etc. But to argue this fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the relationship between Christ and the Church. First, Catholics believe and scripture teaches that when the priest consecrates the bread and wine that it actually becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Believing this, should the Priest lay the consecrated host on a plastic plate? Should anything other than a gold chalice be used to hold the blood of the Lord? The situation is identical to what is in today’s reading. Just as the expensive oil was appropriate for Jesus so are golden vessels the only thing appropriate for the consecrated host.
Second, the Church has acquired the beautiful things it has over 2,000 years because the faithful have given it to the Church for the honoring and praising of God. Just like this woman anointed Jesus with the oil so the faithful have given to the Church for generations. To understand this correctly one really has to understand the nature of the relationship of Jesus to the Church. As we will see in our readings to come, the Bible says that the Church is the bride of Christ. As Jesus tells us a groom and his bride “become on flesh”. Christ and the Church are so closely related to each other that they are in some ways indistinguishable from each other. With this in mind, Saint Paul calls the Church “the fullness of Him who fills all in all”. Fullness means filled up – with room for no more. Paul is saying that the Church is Jesus in this world until the Lord comes again. Thus to give to the Church, or to adorn the Church with painting or statutes, or to give money for the ministry of the Church is the same as anointing the head of the Lord with the expensive oil.