The Order of Melchizedek

17 January 2007: Wednesday of the 2nd Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 7, 1-3, 15-17: The Order of Melchizedek

When we were baptized, we were given three roles or responsibilities: the roles of priest, prophet and king. The prophet preaches the faith; the king serves his people; and the priest builds bridges to God – pontifex means bridge-builder. Today, we shall understand our common priesthood, the priesthood that all baptized share. We shall all take our reflections from the first reading: the letter to the Hebrews.

The letter to the Hebrews mentions a high priest, Melchizedek whose kingdom is Salem. The name Melchizedek means in Hebrew “King of Righteousness” and the word, Salem, means peace: thus Melchizedek was also the King of Peace. He appeared in scripture from nowhere, no background is given. All that is said about him, especially in the Tanakh, is that he brought bread and wine to Abram (he was not yet renamed Abraham) after Abram had victory over certain kings. And in return, Abram granted him tithes from the spoils of war. It is believed that Salem was ancient Jerusalem.

The order of righteousness and peace is significant and no accident in scripture. Paul writes to the Romans (5,1): “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God.” and Romans 14,17: “The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy.” The order is always the same: righteousness then peace.

It is said that the ultimate goal in life is peace; and that we have looked for peace in wrong places. We tried to find peace as we retreat from the world through movies, parties, and some through alcohol and drugs. But we all know that the joys found in these things are never lasting. Though to indulge in some recreation is necessary for our well-being, the truth remains: it is a temporary relief, but never a permanent cure.

We may have evaded our problems and denied certain painful truth about ourselves, but we know that by evading them, they become worse. Moreover, many Filipinos compromise our values and principles just to live peacefully with others.

But the way to righteousness is the way of doing God’s will. The way may be painful and entails challenges, but when there is acceptance of the inevitability of being hurt, peace is achieved. Just look at couples who begin raising their families: they suffer for the sake of their children, but they know that they are doing what they should, as following God’s will. Jesus, for example, asked to be spared from the cross, but as His Father refused his prayers, He faced the cross with courage and with peace.

*Melchizedek at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome.

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