Hb 10. 19-25; Ps 24; Mk 4. 21-25
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Active Not Sentimental
The preacher of the Letter to the Hebrews praised Jesus as the effective high priest, who reconciled us with God, allowing us to share God’s life. Our new confidence and access to God leads to living in ways which build community. The conviction that we have a great priest over the house of God led the preacher to urge his first hearers--and us--to rouse one another to love and good works, like our high priest, Jesus.
As human and one like us in all things apart from sin,/1/ Jesus moved through his earthly existence, his flesh, into God’s existence by his suffering, death and resurrection. The preacher saw the veil, or curtain, of the temple as the shadow of Jesus, God-in-human-flesh. The preacher specifically recalled the curtain before the Holy of Holies. It was “not essentially a physical obstacle”; it served “to hide the Holy of Holies and, to indicate that no one [was] permitted to enter except the High Priest on the Day of Atonement.”/2/ Jesus’ self-sacrifice made obsolete the continuous, annual sacrifices and made at one with God all who obeyed Jesus.
In this way the preacher identified Jesus’ flesh with the veil that prevented us from having access to God and from sharing God’s life. The preacher no longer thought of the house of God as a building but as the assembly of believers, as he said earlier: Every house is founded by someone, but the founder of all is God. ...We are his house, if only we hold fast to our confidence and pride in our hope./3/
To hold fast does not mean to hang on with no purpose. What the preacher earlier implied,/4/ he made explicit here. Our purpose as God’s people is to rouse one another to love and good works and to encourage one another. Good works describes Christian love: it’s active not sentimental. It includes communal worship, which, as we heard, some in the preacher’s day avoided.
After our hearts were sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water by the self-sacrifice of Jesus--those words more than suggest our reconciliation and consecration by baptism and eucharist--our confession of faith and our hope no longer are mental activities. They move us to approach God and share God’s life, not as individuals but as the people God has gathered in, through and with Jesus, our brother and priest and pioneer./5/
1. Hebrews 4.15.
2. N.A. Dahl, “A New and Living Way: The Approach to God according to Hebrews 10:19-25,” Interpretation 5 (1951),
3. Hebrews 3.4...6b.
4. Hebrews 3.6; 4.14.
5. Hebrews 2.10.
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