We’re reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews these days at Mass. Raymond Brown calls the work “a conundrum” in his “Introduction to the New Testament”. Who wrote it, where and when it was written, to whom, why? Hard to figure out.
Indications are the letter was written to Jewish-Christians or their sympathizers, perhaps in the area of Rome, after the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, who wanted to reconstruct the temple and renew worship there. Martin Goodman’s “Rome and Jerusalem” (New York 2008) offers an interesting picture of the Jewish (and Jewish-Christian) attempts to rebuild the temple and revive its rites in the latter part of the 1st century.
Our letter sees Christ as superior to this Jewish past; he is its fulfillment and creates something new. Not dismissing the past, he completes it.
I wonder if we face something like this today as our world and our church face change, drastic change, and yet we hang on to the past, not knowing the future and afraid of what it will bring. But we can’t recreate what has been, something new lies before us.
The Letter to the Hebrews tells us to face the future bravely, and keep before us the One who holds the key to the future. Remember his struggle.
“Keep your eye fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith, For the sake of the joy put before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and has taken his place at the right hand of the Father. Consider how he faced such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”