Friday of Week 3 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on Hebrews 10:32-39

The writer again repeats his exhortation to the Hebrew Christians not to give up on the faith to which they gave such strong witness in the past.

He asks them to remember the days when they first heard and “received the light”.  This “enlightenment” is an ancient metaphor for baptism but it may also refer to the catechumen’s enlightenment by faith and their experience of salvation.

At that time of their conversion, they had to go through many trials and difficulties, sometimes being “publicly exposed to abuse and persecution” or because of their close connections with people being so treated.

In addition, they showed their solidarity and compassion with those Christians who had been thrown into prison because of their faith (perhaps a reference to Paul’s imprisonment?).  They even happily accepted their possessions being taken away from them in exchange for a treasure that was so much better and more lasting.

It is not time now for them to give up on their former faith and confidence, which brought such great rewards though not of a material kind.  They need a spirit of endurance and perseverance in their first faith so that, having carried out God’s will in every way, they will receive the reward that awaits them.

In confirmation of what he is saying the author gives a quotation from the prophet Habakuk (2:3-4).  He uses the Greek text of the Old Testament and inverts two lines from v4 of the original, and introduces the passage with a few words taken from Isaiah 26:20.  Paul, writing to the Romans, also quotes the phrase: “The just [or righteous] person lives by faith” (Rom 1:17).

Only a little while now, a very little while,
and the One that is coming will have come; he will not delay;
for the righteous one will live by faith…

This reflects the belief, mentioned many times in the New Testament, of the expected final coming of Jesus to take all his faithful followers to their future and unending life face to face with God.  The necessary condition was that the Christians maintain their total faith and trust in the promises of God and of Christ.

…but if such a one draws back, my soul will take no pleasure in such a person.

So, the author says in conclusion, the Hebrew Christians and himself are not the kind of people to pull back and so be lost.  Rather they are the sort who remain faithful and so win salvation.  It is this “pulling back” that these Hebrews are threatening to do, and he is giving them many reasons as to why it does not make any sense for them to do so.

We, too, must continue to move ever forward, remaining faithful to the core of the Gospel message, and living it out effectively and meaningfully in an ever-changing world.

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