Immersed in Christ: February 1, 2021
Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 11:32-40, Responsorial Psalm 31, Mark 5:1-20
“Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.”
Hebrews wants us to appreciate the hope our faith holds out to us — and specifically, to appreciate its uniqueness. Our “salvation” is like nothing ever achieved, prayed for or even imagined before on this earth. The “perfection” or “end” for which we are destined is totally identified with Jesus Christ. What we call “heaven” can only be understood as the fruit of his death and resurrection. If we think of it any other way, Hebrews says we don’t know what we are thinking about!
Connect this with what we say of Jesus in the Gloria: “You alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High....” In and through him alone can we enter into the perfection or “end” that is promised us. Peter proclaimed it: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” 1
To make this point, Hebrews praises the faith of the great Old Testament figures of salvation history, from Abel to Abraham and Sarah (11:1-19), from Isaac to Moses and the People who followed him into the desert (11:20-31), and now the faith of a list there is “not time to give an account of: Gideon, Barak... David, Samuel and the prophets.” By faith they “conquered kingdoms, did what was upright and earned the promises... submitted to torture... were stoned... homeless... in want and hardship and were maltreated....” Hebrews concludes: “Yet, despite the fact that all of these were approved because of their faith, they did not obtain what had been promised. God had made a better plan — had made provision for us to have something better — and they were not to reach perfection except with us.”
The eschatological epoch of ‘perfection’ was inaugurated by Christ, and access to divine life has been made available only by him. The Old Testament saints, who could not be ‘perfected’ by the Law had thus to wait until the resurrection of Christ before they could enter the perfect life of heaven [references omitted]. 2
What is this end for which we are destined, the perfection promised us? It is to become Christ by dying and rising in Christ at Baptism and at the end of time to “form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature.” 3
God told Abraham to leave “country kindred and your father’s house” for “the land that I will show you.” He told Isaac to “settle in the land that I shall show you.” Neither knew where he was going. He promised Moses he would lead his People to “a land flowing with milk and honey,” but they had no idea what it was really like, and God did not supply a road map. Instead, “The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night.” They traveled in faith, without knowing their destination. But we know ours. It is to be “united,” “gathered up,” “brought together under a single Head” together with “all things in heaven and on earth” in order to “form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature.”4
This is the end, the destiny, the perfection, the promise our faith holds out to us. And we already possess it! Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Meditation: How am I already “perfect”? How will my death change this?