In our first chapter of Leviticus, the Lord goes back over many of the restrictions found in the previous chapter, but this time with details about penalties. These range from shunning to burning at the stake. These penalties are necessary as a deterrent to prevent this evil and abhorrent behavior that was apparently common in the land they were going to be living in, and if they were committed then to punish and prevent it from becoming common among the Israelites too,
The next chapter is all about the “otherness” that the priests are to embody. They’re not just supposed to remain ceremonially clean, and avoid sin, but they also must be physically perfect because they are representing the perfection and holiness of God to the Israelites.
And the final chapter of Leviticus that we read today has two parts, the first concerning the usage of things and items dedicated for use at the temple, and the second part is about animals that are acceptable as sacrifices.
The animals sacrificed must always be a perfect specimen with no diseases, or blemishes, or injuries. God is saying that what we offer him, even to this day, has to be the best we can give. Quality is more important than quantity.
I heard a priest say that even prayer being offered should be the best we can do, and that a single Our Father prayed from the depths of our heart is more valuable in the eyes of God than an entire rosary prayed halfheartedly.
Jesus tells the apostles that some of them will live to see the coming of the kingdom, but Jesus hasn’t returned at the end of time yet, and all the apostles have been dead for millennia, so how can this be?
Jesus was telling them that they’d live to see the establishment of his church on earth, that is the Kingdom of God on earth, and will be full manifest and revealed at the end of the age.
Jesus goes up the mountain of transfiguration with his closest disciples, and his fully unveiled glory is revealed to them. This would be an extraordinary and frightening experience. They had been with him for at least a couple of years at this point, but even though Peter had confessed him to be the Son of God, he still appeared to them and their senses as just a normal human being, but that’s not who he truly is.
The transfiguration doesn’t transform Jesus into some new thing, He hasn’t changed at all in this moment, but what has happened is that the disciples can now see Him exactly as He is. His glory is no longer veiled and they’re seeing Him in His full divinity, it’s still the same person and He retains the same essence, but how they see Him has changed. This is the same way that we can perceive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a matter of faith, but if we could see a transfiguration of the Eucharist like the disciples did on this mountain, we’d see the Host shining like the sun.
Jesus is a divine being with two natures and two wills, but to the disciples they’d only ever seen his divinity veiled in flesh, and now they were seeing him as he truly is. This is very similar to the way our senses may perceive what looks like bread and what tastes like bread, but is actually the body of Christ. (See The Transfiguration of Christ)
When they come down from the mountain they are approached by a father who begs Jesus to heal his son and drive out the demon that is tormenting him. He says “if you can” to Jesus. But he replies that anything is possible to him who believes. Then the father says one of the best replies in the Gospel of Mark. He says “I believe; help my unbelief.”
I’ve personally prayed the prayer of this father many times in my life, and it’s been a great help in coming to understand and believe things about God and his church that sometimes can be hard to grasp or accept. I can’t recommend this practice enough, because if we are having doubts about anything, and we ask God to increase our faith, and he will give us grace and bolster our faith.
Jesus responds to this father’s honest appeal for an increase in faith where he may be lacking by healing his son. If his faith wasn’t increased prior to that, it sure was now seeing his son healed and back to health with no demon possessing him.
There’s a few other very important nuggets in this chapter, so I’d encourage everyone to really read through it and consider what Jesus is saying to you through his words to the apostles.
But I’d like to focus in on the end of chapter 9 here for a minute. Here Jesus uses some hyperbole to emphasize the importance of avoiding what it is that causes you to sin. An example could be that if you were a recovering alcoholic, but you really enjoy watching football with the guys at the local pub, you may have to end that enjoyable and benign activity because it puts you in a position to fall back into your habits that you are trying to avoid. The same goes for sin.
If you know there’s a certain place, thing, event, or especially a person, that causes you to sin, then you need to excise that from your life. It’s better to enter heaven with one less foul talking friend than it is to go into hell together. And that can go for any sin and any situation. If you identify something that always seems to happen or come around just before you commit a mortal sin, then you need to put distance between it/them and yourself.