Tuesday of week 3 of Ordinary Time – First Reading


Commentary on Heb 10:1-10

In a final reflection Hebrews continues by pointing out the inadequacy of the Law to take away people’s sins.

The old dispensation was only a shadow of and a prefiguration for what was to come.  It could not, through sacrifices repeated year after year on the Day of Atonement, bring about the lasting  reconciliation of God with his people.

Otherwise, if the people really had no consciousness of being any longer in sin, why would they have come year after year to make the sacrificial offering?  On the contrary, the repetition of the same sacrifice was only a confirmation of an ongoing sense of guilt for their sinfulness.  The simple fact of the matter is that the blood of bulls and goats is quite incapable of taking away sin, of bringing out about a lasting reconciliation with God.

The author then quotes words from Psalm 40:7-9a as a foretelling of what was really needed to bring about this reconciliation.  He puts the words of the psalmist on the lips of Christ himself at his incarnation, when he “came into the world”.  The author follows the Septuagint (Greek text) which is somewhat different from the original Hebrew but is more suited to his argument.

It is not sacrifices and other offerings that the Father wants.  Instead he has provided his Son with a body, a body that will be offered in sacrifice for all of us.  The Father takes no pleasure in “sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings”.   These four things, mentioned in Ps  40, are probably indicating the four principal types of Old Testament sacrifices: peace offerings; cereal offerings; burnt offerings or holocausts; and sin offerings (including guilt offerings mentioned in Lev 5:14-26).

Jesus acknowledged that the Old Testament sacrifices did not remit the sins of the people and so, perceiving the will of God, offered his own body for this purpose.  Jesus then, through the Psalmist, says, “See, God, I have come to do your will.”  The highest form of sacrifice is our total union with the will of God.

The former dispensation is now abolished and the offering of Jesus takes its place in a new dispensation.  So now, it is by God’s will carried out by Jesus in his death that we become “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”.  It was the total surrender of the Son to the Father that effectively and forever interceded for the removal of our sin.

Each one of us has to mirror that surrender in our own lives, making the will of God our own, and then we will experience the total liberation that God wants for us as we become united as one with him.

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