Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Yet all these, though approved  because of their faith, did not receive what had been promised.
God had foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be made perfect.

In Hebrews 11 the Divine Author has reminded his congregation of the ancestors from Abraham to the prophets, and of their expectation. They had seen the "holy city" from afar and looked forward to entering it. That holy longing of their forebears has now been satisfied by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But the Author adds an odd coda to his story, "so that without us they should not be made perfect."

Ordinarily we think of the saints as having made it. Their work is done, their trials are finished, their satisfaction is complete. They have no further need of anything from Earth or us.

Apparently, the Author of Hebrews doesn't see it that way. Although the patriarchs, prophets and saints have finished their work, the entire project is not complete until we have finished ours. The Author will not permit his people to suppose they can ease up on their religious discipline. The "old days" are not passed; the old disciplines may have evolved through changing times but the Spirit is no less demanding of us today than it was of our ancestors long ago.

Not many years ago an American Catholic attended Mass every Sunday and abstained from meat every Friday. They wouldn't eat meat on Friday even if Christmas fell on that day! These were minimal expectations and even the lax observed them. Anyone who knew you were Catholic might remind you of their expectations of you.

The story is told of the fellow who approached the church on Sunday morning smoking a cigar. Peeping into the church he saw that the priest was still preaching. He still had time to commune with his cigar. Finally, as the collection began he entered and stood in the back until the priest had received communion. Exiting immediately he found to his satisfaction that his cigar was still lit. But, by golly, you can't say he wasn't there! Minimal attendance required one's presence from the Offertory to Communion. Thousands of people, following in the footsteps of their ancestors, still walk straight out the door after receiving the Eucharist.

It was a bizarre way of maintaining one's identity as Catholic and I don't promote such passive aggression. But I recall this and similar stories to remind us of how seriously we took the discipline. Even when more honored in the breach, the rules were honored.

Hebrews reminds us that we still owe much to our ancestors. They have kept the faith as they passed it to us, we must keep the faith for them as we pass it to our children. The disciplines will change. Our dietary observance might not abstain from meat on Friday but it will avoid gluttony and will maintain best practices of a healthy life style. We will pray daily as we observe the obligations of Sunday and the holy days. We will practice sacrificial generosity even as we fulfill our obligations as citizens and our sacred vows.
The saints expect that much of us; we expect it of ourselves; and our children demand it.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.