“It’s just never seems like it matters.”

“Matters?” the bull seemed genuinely intrigued at this line of thought.

Haden looked up. “Yeah, I see it on your face, already. You want to tell me all the ways that I’m wrong. I’m the bird anderson and you’re the one getting your feathers ruffled.”

Haden’s guardian chuckled for a moment. “Well, not so much that you’re wrong, but y’know, tell me what you mean.”

“Well, like the Ten Commandments and such are always good. Or that time when Jesus preached from the mountaintop. I can understand being told what to do or how to act. That’s how anyone makes sure that people stay in line and don’t mess up the good stuff they’ve been given. It only makes sense that God’ll do that too.”

“But that’s not what…” Pontiff paused before continuing. “Then what’s your beef with the Bible?”

Haden looked at Pontiff for a long moment. “Did you just say…?” But seeing that his new roommate was completely serious, asked for a Bible instead. “Here, I’ll show you.” He took it into his hand and opened to a random place, making a big deal in reading aloud the passage.

Take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the tribes of Israel. Six names will be on each stone, arranged in the order of the births of the original sons of Israel. Engrave these names on the two stones in the same way a jeweler engraves a seal. Then mount the stones in settings of gold filigree. Fasten the two stones on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod as a reminder that Aaron represents the people of Israel. Aaron will carry these names on his shoulders as a constant reminder whenever he goes before the LORD.

“Now tell me why that matters at all to me right now?” He flapped his wings in frustration. “I’m in big trouble. Big enough trouble to have to live here away from my mom, with a freaking huge and freaking scary roommate. I don’t know anyone here and I don’t have any of my friends around… And I hate it here!” He blinked away the flood of tears forming in his eyes. “What does a set of shoulder decorations have to do with anything?”

There was a plaintive rumble that seemed to come from Pontiff’s large chest. He frowned, leaned forward, retrieving the Bible from Haden’s hands, flipped to the next page and started to read.

Then, with great skill and care, make a chestpiece to be worn for seeking a decision from God…Mount four rows of gemstones on it…Each stone will represent one of the twelve sons of Israel, and the name of the tribe will be engraved on it like a seal.

“You have to finish the passage. You wouldn’t say that your favorite movie or video game makes a lot of sense if you finish up in the middle. Yeah, reading about some odd-looking pauldrons and how they’re supposed to be made and worn could really be dry reading. But Moses wasn’t finished yet there.”

“Yeah, so? More silly talking about religious get-ups.”

“Well, Moses ended his writings the middle of the middle. Same is true here too. God wasn’t finished yet.”

With a deftness that betrayed his large sausage-like fingers he flipped to near the end of the Bible and started reading again:

But Jesus the Son of God is our great High Priest who has gone to heaven itself to help us; therefore let us never stop trusting him. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses since he had the same temptations we do, though he never once gave way to them and sinned. So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need.

Pontiff looked up again, a smile on his muzzle. “That’s in the book of Hebrews. God gave Israel the high priest so that they could see a picture of the true High Priest that serves in Heaven – Jesus Christ, His Son.” He sounded subdued, almost somber, as he continued. “He told Israel that the high priest needed to have the names of the People on his shoulders as well as having them on his chest. Always on his back. Always over his heart. And always with very expensive materials.”

“Yeah? Again, so what?”

“It was symboli-” The bull caught himself. “Well, more than just symbolic really,” he flipped through the first few books of the Bible absently, “the whole priestly system, all of it. That was the middle of the story. God put it in place to point to Jesus, the End of the story. The high priest on Earth had his people’s names on his shoulders. It was like he was carrying them on his shoulders.” He pointed to his chest. “The names on the breastplate show that his people are always to be on his heart. The high priest was to always remember. Not just remember that he represented God’s people, but to remember God’s people themselves – thinking about them with love and compassion. The expensive gold and jewels even point to the fact that he was to always treasure his people too.”

The pieces were coming together in Haden’s mind. “So putting it all together…”

“Understand that all of this was God’s idea from the start! So putting it all together, God is showing us that Jesus has a tenderness toward us. We’re always on His heart, and our burdens are always on His shoulders. Because we are His treasures, the eternal well-being of His people is one of his highest priorities.”

The bull anderson rose from his seat and headed over to the stove to make some tea – his normal course of action to usher in some closure. “But that’s not all,” he said as he turned on the gas burner, the gentle puff of ignition punctuating the moment.

“I think you’ve said this before,” Haden admitted.

“Jesus Christ, God the Son, is our High Priest before the Father. But we just said that he’s always shouldering our burdens. His heart beats for us. He cherishes us greatly. But not only that, Jesus has experienced all the highs and lows of being a human in this current world.”

Haden scoffed, momentarily breaking the spell he felt himself slipping into. “How could perfect Jesus know anything about how my life is?”

“Well, you mean apart from just ‘taking it by faith’ since the Bible clearly says it there? Well, that’s simple. He knows how it’s like to be away from family, to be far outside what made him comfortable. Even though he volunteered for the position, he knew what it was like to be lonely and in circumstances where he didn’t feel in control.” And with that, the spell was back, and Pontiff noticed. “Come now, buddy, it’s plenty okay to cry,” he said wiping away some tears that had finally betrayed their bounds. “Anyone would in your situation, Haden.”

The avian, flinched visibly at Pontiff’s touch, expecting those broad, meaty and calloused hand-paws to be as rough against his face as they looked. But he was rather shocked when Pontiff’s huge thumb gently tried and succeeded to wipe a few tears from his cheek.

“Because we have a high priest who can fully understand us, we know that we have a God who can do the same. He invites His people to come to His throne for mercy, comfort and strength when they need it, and we never have to be afraid to.”

Haden really should have expected it, but the huge hugs from the bull still surprised him. He was familiar with the term “gentle giant,” but he never really expected that a person as large and as strong as Pontiff could have such gentle and almost meek mannerisms. He never crushed or knocked the air out of Haden, and such hugs were never uncomfortable or awkward.

“We can pray right now and talk to the High Priest about it. How about that?”

Haden pushed away. “No, I’m fine really. I’ve got stuff I need to do anyway.”

“Alright then.”