Speak Lord: Lord beyond our knowing, beyond our comprehension.

Book of Gospels, MoscowThe second reading on Sunday coming, the 32nd of Ordinary Time, comes again from the Letter to the Hebrews.

It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary which was only modelled on the real one; but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the high priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began.

Instead of that, he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself.

Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the faults of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:24-28

The Letter to the Hebrews points to comparisons between Christ and the Jewish cult, and clearly posits Jesus Christ as the fulfilment of all that has been, the sole provider of what is necessary for the salvation of God’s people, Jews and Gentiles.

It is so easy for us to fall into the trap of trying to tame religion, of re-making it in our image and likeness. Yet as Hebrews makes clear, and – to be fair – it is the constant theme of the Old Testament too, God will not be contained within our cult and our systems. God is God and we are but creatures: beloved creatures but creatures all the same.

The horizon-busting, transcendent achievement of God who became one with us is something we neglect at our peril. If we neglect it, and reduce God’s salvation to something of this world, for this world, very quickly we lose real need for it, it becomes one ‘solution’ to the human condition, just one more ‘solution’ among so very many.

  • What is there about you that is lacking, that only God can address?
  • What about the Gospel stretches you at present?

A golden cover for Book of Gospels, Arsenal Museum, Kremlin, Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Taste and See: God in flesh for us

Joyful Nativity

The Letter to the Hebrews is the source of the Second reading at Sunday Mass from now (the week of the 27th Sunday in Ordinary TIme) until the last but one Sunday of this liturgical year.

The reading on Sunday offers a meditation on salvation won through the Incarnation of God and the faithful life of Jesus.

We see in Jesus one who was for a short while made lower than the angels and is now crowned with glory and splendour because he submitted to death; by God’s grace he had to experience death for all mankind.

As it was his purpose to bring a great many of his sons into glory, it was appropriate that God, for whom everything exists and through whom everything exists, should make perfect, through suffering, the leader who would take them to their salvation. For the one who sanctifies, and the ones who are sanctified, are of the same stock; that is why he openly calls them brothers.

Hebrews 2:9-11

The suffering of Jesus began, at least with his birth. In the image above there is the sense of excitement at the revelation of the child announced by angels, born in David’s city. Maybe there is also a sense of premonition of the crowds that would gather around Jesus at the end of his earthly life, jeering and mobbing and abusing him.

Jesus endures all for us. There is the wonder. The Incarnation can sometimes be reduced to an intellectual, theological puzzle. How can two into one go? How can God who is no thing and is from before all time take flesh and be constrained in time? This things will always stretch our minds. What stretches our heart: is that this was done for us. (NB Including all those who he calls sisters!)

  • Pray that we might know our dignity as children of God
  • Pray that we may more fully accept the leadership of the only Son of God.

Detail of sculpture of the 3rd Joyful Mystery, Hill of Apparitions, Medjugorje. (c) Allen Morris, 2015.

Taste and See: The Lord’s care for you

 

Alexandria Good ShepherdThe second reading at Mass on Sunday – the 5th Sunday of Lent – came from the letter to the Hebrews. Unless you were using the alternative series of readings (proper to Year A, and which must be used when the 3rd Scrutiny is celebrated,or when they are preferred) – in which case the 2nd reading was from Paul’s letter to the Romans, a reading you will find at the end of this post.

The passage from the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of the suffering of Christ.

It is a suffering endured for us. In a fallen world it is the price of love. It is a price the Lord is willing to pay.

And how humbling for us is that.

During his life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.

Hebrews 5:7-9

  •  Who do you serve?
  • What have you learnt from your service?
  • What resources do you draw on to help you serve well?

Photograph of the Good Shepherd is of figure in the Greco-Roman museum in Alexandria. (c) 2004, Allen Morris.

– – –

People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God. Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified; and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

Romans 8:8-11

Speak Lord: Who prays and weeps for us.

Agony

The second reading at Mass on Sunday – the 5th Sunday of Lent – is from the letter to the Hebrews. Or at least it is unless you are using the alternative series of readings for Year A which may be used this year, and which must be used when the 3rd Scrutiny is celebrated – in which case the reading is from Paul’s letter to the Romans, a reading you will find at the end of this post.

During his life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.

Hebrews 5:7-9

We have been encouraged to spend additional time in prayer over these past weeks, and to seek to be more faithful to the call to love God and our neighbour.

Doubtless our response to this call has not been easy, and has been worked out at some cost. Even so it probably palls before the achievement and suffering of Jesus.

His suffering was endured for sake of us, so that in our encounter with him we may encounter the one who is source of eternal salvation.

  • For what would you like Jesus to pray for you?
  • What in his example would you like to better imitate?

Photograph is of carving of Jesus in agony, at the foot of the Scala Sancta, John Lateran, Rome. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.

– – –

People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God. Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified; and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

Romans 8:8-11