Monday, January 14, 2019

Living the ordinary faith

Today we begin the first week in ordinary time. There is not first Sunday in Ordinary Time, it was replaced by the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. For the next month, we will be carefully reading our way through the Letter to the Hebrews. 

For me it is one of the more interesting books of the New Testament because its origins are obscure. It is not called “The Letter from St. Paul to the Hebrews,” because we don’t know who wrote it. Nor do we know when or to what “Hebrews.” And yet, despite the lack of such information, the early Christians considered it canonical, official, part of the revealed word of God. The human author was of little importance. 

In some ways it is the perfect letter to read as we move into ordinary time. It is easier to live our faith on the great solemnities like Christmas or Easter, or even during seasons like Lent. It is much harder to live our faith day in and day our in the ordinary progress of life. As we read our way through the Letter to the Hebrews we will discover that the main problem it deals with is exactly this.

The Letter to the Hebrews is not primarily about holding on to the faith during persecution.  It is primarily dealing with the challenge of perservence when the demands of being a Christian seem to be too much. Striving for holiness can be exhausting. It is much easier to simply go with the flow, live like everybody around you.  

The letter opens by reminding us precisely who Jesus is. It reminds us that Jesus was not one more prophet. Jesus is not one more spokesperson for God. Jesus is God. 

In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe

In our creed we repeat God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God; and yet, at times we still don’t seem to get it. Yesterday’s gospel was not Jesus listening to the voice of God; it was the Son listening to the Father and the descent of the Holy Spirit, all three equally God. 

In Jesus humanity has a direct, immediate encounter with God. In Jesus we are not only told but shown directly by God wha we are required to do, if we want to have eternal life. And we cannot grow tired of it. We cannot give up. Daily we must continue to strive for holiness.