Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday word, 27 Jan 09

Third Tuesday of the Year B (27 Jan 2009)
Hb 10. 1-10; Ps 40; Mk 3. 31-35
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Real Cleansing

The preacher of the Letter to the Hebrews lived at time when believers in Jesus as Lord can best be described as Jewish Christians. The rupture between Judaism and Christianity, which we know from our first awareness, was not yet. That is very important for us to know. Other-wise we may understand the preacher to be saying that God had abandoned the Jewish people and the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants forever in favor of Christians. That is not the case.

Rather, the preacher faulted another covenant, the covenant God made with Moses on Mt. Sinai. That covenant issued the law with its ritual prescriptions and sacrificial offerings. The offerings were numerous, and they needed to be repeated. [The law] can never make perfect those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year. The preacher of the Letter to the Hebrews faulted this failure, which continual repetition of offerings sharpened.

The goal of the covenant was to allow people access to God and God’s life. “To be perfected” was to be transformed. This preacher stood in the tradition of the prophets, who faulted people for relying on ritual and not allowing their hearts to be affected and transformed. Yet no one could accomplish this interior transformation on one’s own, which the repetition of sacrifices made clear. Using the metaphor of cleansing, the preacher asked: would not the sacrifices have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, once cleansed, would no longer have had any consciousness of sins?

The person and priestly act of Jesus accomplished for us what we cannot. Jesus came into the world open to do what would accomplish our transformation. His union with us as our brother/1/ --like us in all things apart from sin/2/--and at the same time the very imprint of [God’s] being,/3/ make Jesus our mediator, who gives us access to God and even transfers us into God’s existence. Jesus’ self-sacrifice accomplished that once for all. Our part in this new covenant, which Jeremiah had announced and the preacher recalled (we heard Friday), is to imitate Jesus’ obedient faith. Sharing his body and blood helps us to imitate Jesus as members of his true family.

1. See Hebrews 2.11.
2. Hebrews 4.15; see also 2.17.
3. Hebrews 1.3.
Wiki-image of the risen Jesus as Lord by Andreas Praefcke is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

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