We’ve been reading the Letter to the Hebrews at Mass for two weeks now. It’s a good example of how time-conditioned our scriptures are. Those who listened to the letter long ago knew more about the temple in Jerusalem and its round of worship than we do today. They were more familiar with the story of the exodus and they knew “the great cloud of witnesses” better than we do.. We’re far removed from their times.
We’re people of our age, wired to the absorbing images of our time. Hard as we try, the language of the bible can be hard to appreciate.
Still, one image from those times stands fresh and strong.. It’s the image of Jesus on the Cross. We must “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of our faith,” the Letter to the Hebrews says. “For the sake of the joy that lay before him, Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”
The passion of Jesus speaks to every time and place. It’s a book anyone can read, a sign to get the attention of every age, for it makes a startling claim. The Son of God, through whom all things were made, endured the shame of dying on a cross. Jesus, wise and powerful, fell into the hands of his enemies. And it was all because of a wondrous love.
Fixing our eyes on him, our faith in God grows, the Letter to the Hebrews says. If we keep this mystery before us we won’t tire or lose heart. Fixing our eyes on Jesus means fixing our eyes on the eternal God.
So utterly simple. Beyond past images and time.