Day 283 – The Once and For All Sacrifice

Today’s reading: Hebrews 10

Today the author of Hebrews reaches one of his main points.  The prior sacrifices of the Old Covenant were ineffective and were merely yearly reminders that we are sinners.  In contrast, Jesus sacrifice is sufficient to affect the forgiveness of sins.

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:10

and

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14

Many Protestants will cite this “once and for all” language to argue against the sacrifice of the Mass.  As Catholics, we must be conscious of what type of sacrifice the Mass is.  Indeed, Hebrews says:

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Hebrews 10:18

Indeed, the Church agrees and teaches that the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of sins is made once and for all.  However, while there is no longer any necessity for an offering for the forgiveness of sins, offerings for the thanksgiving and remembrance remain.  This is exactly what the church teaches:

1358 We must therefore consider the Eucharist as:

thanksgiving and praise to the Father;
– the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his Body;
– the presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Spirit.

– Catechism of the Catholic Church

We can see that the Mass is an offering of thanksgiving because earlier in Hebrews, the author calls Jesus a “high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 5:9-10  Recall, that Melchizedek offered Bread and Wine in thanksgiving for Abraham’s victory in battle:

After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.  Genesis 14:17-20

We can see that the Mass is an offering of remembrance because Jesus himself said, “Do this in remembrance of me”.  (Luke 22:14-20).  Remember, in the Jewish way of thinking the “remembrance” is not just a mental exercise of thinking about the events of the past.  For them, especially at the Passover, the remembrance “makes present” those same events.  Again, this is precisely what the Catholic Church teaches:

1364 In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present.185 “As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.”186 (1 Cor 5:7)

Finally, we should note how the end of Hebrews chapter 10, directly refutes the doctrine of “salvation by faith alone” with no role for works and the doctrine of “once saved, always saved”.

No faith alone:

Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.  Hebrews 10:24

No once saved always saved:

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.  Hebrews 10:26-27

Tomorrow: Hebrews 11

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