The Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood.
In most of the Catholic Ordination ceremonies and priestly anniversaries I have attended, the response to the responsorial Psalm reminded me and I think every one also of the supremacy of the Melchizedek priesthood to the Aaronic priesthood. In most cases the response is; you are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek. Many Catholics are so use to this statement to the extent that it has almost become a form of greeting or a way of expressing their love for their priests, but not so many Catholics have really meditated on the Melchizedek priesthood.
Melchizedek, who was he? The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that Melchizedek was not just a king but is a king and a priest forever. He says; This King, Melchizedek of Salam, a priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him; and to him Abraham apportioned one-tenth of everything. His name, in the first place, means ‘king’ of righteousness; next he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever (Hew. 7:1-3).
Melchizedek remains a priest forever. The Aaronic priesthood unlike the Melchizedek priesthood has beginning, it is inherited, and one has to be born into the Aaronic linage to be a priest among the Jews. But in the case of Melchizedek, he has no father and he has no mother, no linage. His priesthood has no beginning, he did not inherit it like the Aaronic priesthood. So, the Catholic Church sees in Melchizedek a typology or a reflection of the priesthood of Jesus Christ that has no beginning nor end. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews says that Melchizedek is the king of righteousness and the king of peace. But the prophet Isaiah tells us that a child has been born for us, a Son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulder; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace (Is. 9:6). Isaiah here referred to Jesus Christ, and that means therefore that before the incarnation, Jesus is king, priest and God; so he remains after death. He is the high priest of our faith who offered himself as a sacrifice once and for all, not like the Aaronic priesthood that has to offer different sacrifices everyday (Hew. 7:27-28).
In Melchizedek we see the reflection of the everlasting priesthood of Jesus Christ, the priesthood the Lord Jesus left for his Church as a gift. The priesthood in the Catholic Church is therefore in the line of ‘Melchizedek’ (Jesus Christ) who knows no beginning nor end. I am a man, a mere mortal and a sinner called to share in the everlasting priesthood of Jesus Christ. And by the virtue of our baptism in Christ Jesus, we all share in this one and everlasting priesthood.
This realization should encourage us to rise above the power of fear, for we cannot fear he (Satan or man) who has beginning and end when we live in he (Christ Jesus) who has no beginning nor end. Jesus says; But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Lk. 12:5). Let us continually thank God therefore for the gift of Priesthood to the Catholic Church and especially for calling a sinner like me and many others into this holy mystery.
The Lord Jesus Christ has made us a royal priesthood and a consecrated people. We are priests for ever in the line of Melchizedek.