(in the homily)
The writer to the Hebrews this weekend starts by looking at all of the things that happened with the Israelites at Mount Sinai following God giving them the 10 Commandments through Moses. They were afraid to draw near to God because of all the things that were happening while Moses was conversing with God.
But now… The writer to the Hebrews tells us that is not what we, as Christians, are experiencing. This was an exciting set of words for people who were facing the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and exile from the synagogues because they are Christians.
The Romans armies may well have been at the gates of Jerusalem to destroy it while the letter to the Hebrews was being written. But even if that is not the timing, the early Christians were definitely finding themselves being kicked out of the synagogues because of this strange belief in Jesus.
So we have this glorious declaration of statements by the writer to the Hebrews. These statements would have filled the people in his day not with just a longing for Jerusalem, but for a longing for the fullness of the revelation of Jesus. Listen to what it says again:
No, you have approached Mount Zion
and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,
and countless angels in festal gathering,
and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,
and God the judge of all,
and the spirits of the just made perfect,
and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,
and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.
I want you to catch some of the fire and excitement that is being spoken of here. We lose some of it because we are so distant from the time that it was first spoken or written. We may not fully understand what the assembly of the firstborn means, we may not understand fully what it means to be in a new covenant, we may not even understand what the sprinkled blood is all about.
But all three of these hearken back to the experiences of the Hebrews in the desert with Moses.
This is also part of our experience. We are headed into a new desert. And times of spiritual renewal are following that. But before we reach that renewal, we will face the desert.
So we need to learn to cry out to God and to approach this Mount Zion which is the city of the living God the heavenly Jerusalem. We need to learn to cry out from the depths of our hearts for a renewal of God’s people.
Part of what I spoke about in Rome this week to priests and bishops was the need for the renewal of our identity as family. And that requires a renewal of our understanding of men as the men of God and women as the women of God. We have let these things: the meaning of family, the meaning of man, the meaning of woman be so distorted by our society that when we hear the glorious proclamation of the covenant of God… We find ourselves saying “so what?”
No, no more. No, we have drawn near to Mount Zion and the city of the living God and the heavenly Jerusalem and countless angels in festal gathering… We have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus and made one in his covenant family.
Jesus, help us to know more clearly the mystery that you have presented to us. Help us to understand the covenant that you called us to. Help all your people to seek and to know you. Allow us to catch the fire of your spirit in a way that will excite us, so that we can excite the world and draw them all to you.
Our world today is in a crisis of understanding: a crisis of understanding what it means to be a man, to be a woman, to be a family. You offer us the ideal. Help us to embrace it, to draw near to the consuming fire that you are, that we may be purified and made holy. Then, by your grace, we will make the world holy and transformed into what you intended to be. Amen.