Friday of week 4 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on Heb 13:1-8

As we come to the end of the Letter there are the usual pieces of practical advice, each one calling for personal reflection.

The ‘Hebrews’ are instructed to:

– Love each other like brothers and sisters, a central teaching of the New Testament. At the Last Supper Jesus gave his “new” commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). If our every word, action and relationship is based on this commandment, we cannot go far wrong. See also Paul’s famous hymn to love in 1 Cor 13 and chaps. 3 and 4 of 1 John.

– Welcome strangers; they may be entertaining an angel without knowing it. As happened to Abraham when he offered the hospitality of his home to three strangers. The same ‘angels’ were also received in the house of Lot, who lived in Sodom (Gen 18 and 19). Similarly Gideon (ch. 6) and Manoah (ch. 13) in the Book of Judges entertained people who were in fact God’s messengers. We, of course, are called on to recognise the presence of Christ in every person and most of all, in the needy stranger (Matt 25:40).

– Remember those who are in prison and to emphathise with their situation. God loves them too, no matter what they may have done. “I was in prison and you visited me” (Matt 25:36). The reason for the imprisonment is not mentioned; it seems not to be a relevant factor.

– Remember those being abused or oppressed in any way. Again, such people are to be treated in the way one would like to be treated oneself if in such a situation.

– Respect the marriages of others and maintain the fidelity of their own. Fornication and adultery will bring down God’s judgement; such behaviour is not for Christians.

– Remove monetary greed from their lives and be content with what they have. Jesus had said: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15), and Paul: “I have learnt to be content with what I have” (Phil 4:11). The reason is that God looks after his own. This is especially true when we belong to a good community; everyone will take care of everyone else. So the author quotes from Ps 118 in support of what he is saying: “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”

– Finally, there is a call to respect those leaders, who brought the Word of God to them. They may be already dead but the memory of their lives are models for them to follow.

He sums up his teaching by reminding them that the Risen Jesus is still with them: “He is the same today as he was yesterday and as he will be for ever”. The Jesus they know in their present Christian life is exactly the same as the Jesus of “yesterday” who walked the roads of Galilee, preached his Gospel, died on the Cross and rose again. And he is the same Jesus whom they will meet in the life to come.

For them now to compromise Jesus’ absolute supremacy by going back to the ways of the old dispensation, the old priesthood and rituals is to turn their backs on something far more assuring – the redemptive life and work of Jesus, the Son of God.

The instructions here are just as relevant for us today as they were for the ‘Hebrews’ to whom this Letter was addressed.

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