Saturday of week 4 of Ordinary Time – First Reading


Commentary on Heb 13:15-17, 20-21

Today we conclude our reading of the Letter to the Hebrews.

The first part of today’s reading gives some more instruction on how the ‘Hebrews’ ought to behave:

First, they are to offer God an unending sacrifice of praise, not now a sacrifice of animals but a verbal offering of praise that is made every time they acknowledge God’s name;

Second, they are to keep doing good works and sharing their resources, for instance, with other Christian communities in need of assistance and support.

Both of these are “sacrifices that please God”. And, in fact, they are a good summary of what the Christian life should be – a combination of prayer and worship together with a never-ending love and service of brothers and sisters.

Third, they are to obey the leaders of their Christian communities who are pastorally responsible for them and have to give an account of how well they carry out their responsibilities. Here the author is speaking of their present leaders and not those “first leaders” he mentioned earlier and who are dead. Clearly, dictatorial leadership is not condoned by this command. Respect for authority, orderliness and discipline in the church are taught throughout the New Testament.

This obedience should be given willingly and joyfully and “not with sighing”. Their cooperation should make following the leadership a source of joy for them rather than something burdensome, in which case all are the losers. The purpose of obedience is not to dominate people but to get all to work together in commitment to a common goal.

The letter ends with a really beautiful prayer and blessing:

I pray that the God of peace,

who brought our Lord Jesus back from the dead,

by the blood that sealed an eternal covenant,

may make you ready to do his will

in any kind of good action;

and turn us all into whatever is acceptable to himself

through Jesus Christ,

to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

These verses constitute one of the most beautiful blessings in the New Testament. It is the only place in the Letter where the resurrection of Jesus is explicitly mentioned although the author frequently speaks of the ‘exaltation’ of Jesus and of his presence before the ‘heavenly Throne’.

It is a fitting end to this uplifting letter, a letter written to a community weighed down by discouragement and tempted to go back to their ancestral ways. Let us also find in it encouragement for the difficulties we face.

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