Only a Shadow
Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them, it can never make perfect those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year. Otherwise, would not the sacrifices have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, once cleansed, would no longer have had any consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is only a yearly remembrance of sins, for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins.
I remember in math class when I first heard that there was no such thing on this earth as a perfect circle. Every circle had imperfections, and that the circles we saw on this earth were just representations of the perfect. Little did I know that I was having my first lesson in Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher.
In the thought of Plato, the material item we see here on earth is merely a shadow of the real item in its ideal form. This was true with every material thing. The material thing was never the “real” thing, but only a shadow of the real thing, the perfect form. This thinking can help us to understand very abstract concepts such as love, or beauty, or affection.
And in today’s first reading, we see that this idea of a shadow can help us to understand how it is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices. The blood of bulls and goats helped the ancient people to understand the idea of sacrifice, but these types of sacrifices were insufficient.
It was only when Jesus comes, the divine Son of God, who, as we have said before not only sacrifices on our behalf, but is himself the real sacrifice. Jesus enters the real Temple in heaven, not merely a representation of the heavenly Temple. While the sacrifices of animals can represent an atonement for sin, it is the total sacrifice of the Son of God that is the true representation of all sacrifices, and moreover, is able to forgive our sins.
This idea of the shadow and the real occurs every single time we go to Mass. At every Mass, we recall the True Sacrifice of Jesus that forgives sin. At every Mass, we get a glimpse of the heavenly Jerusalem, the true Temple where we encounter the true sacrifice of Jesus.
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