January 31, 2017
Tuesday, Week Four, Year I
Hebrews 12:1-4; Psalm 22; Mark 5:21-43.
We Are Building Up The Church In Love
The Second Vatican Council calls us a “pilgrim Church.” We are on the way to something. And we know what it is. It is not some vague state of “beatitude” or a mythical place called “heaven.” We use both of these terms, but now we understand better what they mean.
On earth we are trying to bring into realization the “Kingdom of God.” We may think of this in terms of social structures to be reformed, divisions to be overcome, understanding and unity to be promoted between nations, races, churches and political parties, all leading to justice and peace on earth.
And that is all true. But “all of the above” depends on something prior. Before we can embody God’s reign externally in society, we have to accept it internally in the surrender of our hearts. The whole Church needs to work toward this. So Paul urges us to focus on “building up the Church in love.”
Paul described his own ministry in more mystical, and therefore more precise, terms: “My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you....” We are working now to bring about the goal of the “end times” —to form ourselves and others into that “perfect man who is Christ come to full stature.” That is what we are moving toward as a “pilgrim Church.” That is the “fixed star” by which we chart our course along the way.
Since we know the full mystery of that “plan for the fullness of time” that is our destiny revealed in Christ, Hebrews says we should be motivated to achieve it — even more than were the “cloud of witnesses” from Old Testament times by which we are surrounded. “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” — focused on the goal that is set before us with greater clarity than it ever was to them. Specifically, we need to “lay aside every encumbrance of sin that clings to us,” for sin blocks surrender to Christ the Head. Sin keeps Christ from coming to “full stature” in us. If our goal is to let Christ be formed in us, we can never settle for observance of “the law with its commandments and ordinances,” or for any minimalist morality. We need to “lay aside every encumbrance” that keeps us from total surrender, total union with Christ whose body we have become.
Jesus “endured the cross” — and so should we — “for the sake of the joy which lay before him.” Hebrews says “Remember, consider him.” Jesus has “taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” We need to think about the glory, the joy he came into. Sharing that glory is our destiny. As members of his body, sharers now in his divine life, we already possess it. We are not working toward the possible fulfillment of a promise. The promise has been kept. Jesus our High Priest has entered into the Holy of Holies, taking us with him. We just have to hold on to what is already given to us. Hebrews says, “Do not grow despondent or abandon the struggle — You have too much to lose.” If you appreciate what you have, you will be motivated to hold on to it.
The Introduction to the Lectionary says that the Scriptures read at Mass “draw [God’s People] into the entire mystery of the Lord as a reality to be lived.” The Mass is both a mystery and a reality to be lived. Hebrews is drawing us into it so that we will live it.
Meditation: Imagine what it would be like to be fully surrendered to God’s will.