Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Daily - 2/3/09

Hebrews gives a great description of how we can learn from the ways of our predecessors. Throughout Hebrews 11, we are reminded of great trials that were endured through the faith of Old Testament figures -- Abraham, Enoch, Joseph, Jacob, Moses, and others. The examples of the ancient saints are summed up with the following:

Hebrews 11:32-38

32 What more shall I say? I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,

33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions,

34 put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle, and turned back foreign invaders.

35 Women received back their dead through resurrection. Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection.

36 Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment.

37 They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword's point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented.

38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth.

Hebrews 11 then closes with a reminder that we have been given something greater than the ancient saints:

39 Yet all these, though approved because of their faith, did not receive what had been promised.

40 God had foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be made perfect.

Today’s first reading (Hebrews 12:1-4) continues from there:

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us

2 while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.

3 Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.

4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.

The ancient saints of the old testament are presented as witnesses, testifying to us about what can be endured through faith. The heavens are filled with people who have unlocked the secrets of spirituality and been filled with God’s power. As Hebrews 11:40 says, we have been given more than the ancient saints were. We were given Christ.

As Catholics, we place great value on studying the saints of both the old and the new covenant, and learning from their testimonies. We can see how the new covenant saints have focused on Christ and endured their trials, and we can see how God revealed his glory through them. These are great lessons for us, and our faith embraces and cherishes them.

We can stand on the shoulders of this cloud of witnesses. We can rid ourselves of every burden and sin (aka – putting flesh to death, aka – obedience), while focusing our eyes on Christ. Through this process we come closer and closer to Christ, who is the power source. With that power, we can endure anything the world throws at us. It’s all there for us.