Representative Before God…
The role of the Jewish high priest is similar to the role of our beloved Catholic priests:
Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. -Hebrews 5:1-3, NAB
The Jewish high priest was a representative before God for the Jewish people, just as our Catholic priests represent us to God in the confessional. We may be speaking to a man in that moment, but he is there on God’s behalf. Today’s verse shows us three ways that they fill that role.
First, the priests are chosen from among the people. They, of course, have to accept the call to ordination from God, but they are otherwise just a normal person. But instead of a single high priest who turns to God on our behalf, we have an army of priests willing to defend us.
Next, being a priest takes patience. In the confessional, they must hear some difficult stories of sin and pain in people’s lives, yet their job is not to judge but to love. They must offer help and assistance to the man or woman in that confessional – regardless of how difficult it may be.
Finally, we must realize that our priests are sinners themselves. They may listen to our confessions, but that does not remove them from the need to make confessions of their own. Every man and woman alive, including the Holy Father, needs to confess their sins before God.
Beyond representing us to God, our priests represent God to us. They are acting on behalf of the new High Priest, Jesus Christ, when they offer us absolution from our sins. Christ, as the High Priest, then represents us before God the Father, seeking forgiveness for all of our sins. In this way, we are following the same process as the Jewish people, but Christ completes that process in a much better way.
Confession is a sacrament that intimidates many, but the love and warmth of our Catholic priests eases that fear. As they take our sins to Christ, our priests are fulfilling one of their most important tasks: helping us to find forgiveness for our sins. When was the last time you sought this forgiveness?