By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - on the Epistle
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Perfect Worshippers of the Perfect High Priest

Isaiah 53:4, 10-11 Hebrews 4:14-16 Mark 10:35-45

The Epistle to the Hebrews, has been called "the Priesthood Epistle." Of all the books of the New Testament, it is Hebrews, more than any other, that develops the idea of Christ as the perfect High Priest of the new and eternal covenant. In today's second reading, Hebrews draws out the implication of this belief in Christ as the perfect and eternal High Priest for those who believe in Him. The implication, in a word, is that our belief in Christ as the perfect High Priest demands of us to become His perfect worshippers.

There are two reasons why people fall short of the Christian ideal. One is doubt or lack of faith. The other is weakness or lack of strength. Today's second reading shows us how our belief in the perfect High Priesthood of Christ helps us to overcome these two limitations and transform into fervent and perfect followers of Jesus Christ. First, it address the issue of doubt or lack of faith.

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession (Hebrews 4:14).

Faith has been described as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Yet, if that is all there is to faith, then one faith would be as good as another, since they all have to do with the conviction of things not seen The radical Islamic belief that if I kill infidels in God's name and die in the process, I will be rewarded in Paradise with many wives would be as tenable as the New Testament teaching "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'" (Romans 12:19). After all, both beliefs are based on "the conviction of things not seen." No, true faith is not just the conviction of things not seen, but the conviction of things not seen based on the reliable authority of one who has seen. This is what sets Christian faith apart from other belief systems. As Jesus himself explained, "No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known" (John 1:18).

This is what makes Jesus unique. Hebrews says that because we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens, we can be sure that he knows what he is talking about when he tells us about God and what the mind of God is. Because of this we need to banish all doubt and put our unflinching faith in Jesus and his message. We should, therefore, "hold fast to our confession" because what we confess in faith is given to us on the authority of Jesus who has been there and come back to tell us that it is so. This is how we overcome any doubts on the truthfulness of the gospel we profess. It is based on the authority of Jesus Christ, who has experience life with God in heaven and tells us the fact about the matter.

Next, Hebrews takes us to the issue of human weakness. Here Hebrews points to the fact that Jesus has not only passed through the glorious heavens, he has also passed through the valley of tears in which we now find ourselves. He was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. He was born in a cowshed, had no where to lay his head and was buried in a borrowed grave. He suffered hunger, loss of loved ones, and betrayal by a trusted friend. He was misunderstood and unfair treated. He knew fear, pain and death. What can we ever experience in life that Jesus does not understand. He has been through it all. This is good news for us.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus is the cure to all our spiritual weaknesses. When we understand that Jesus understands and sympathizes with us in our weakness, we are encouraged and strengthened not to despair. This gives us the courage we need to approach the throne of grace. When we do not give up on ourselves as Judas did, but pick ourselves up and brush away the dust of failure as Peter did, then we shall find the divine help we need to overcome our natural weaknesses.

The passage ends with a practical advance: "Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:15-16). Let us stop trying to hide from God, as Adam and Eve tried to do. Let us stop running from God, as Jonah tried to do. Let us rather have the humility and boldness to come to God with the brokenness of our lives. Jesus understands us more than we think. He will then give us the spiritual empowerment we need to overcome our doubts and weaknesses and worship him in spirit and in truth all the days of our lives.

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