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Week 29, Sunday. Year of Faith - Words of THE WORD

“To You I call; for You will surely heed me, O God; turn Your ear to me; hear my words. Guard me as the apple of Your eye; in the shadow of Your wings protect me." (Psalm 17:6, 8)

COLLECT
Almighty ever-living God, grant that we may always conform our will to yours and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever.


RESPONSORIAL PSALM (click for full Psalm)
Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you. (Psalm 33:22).


SCRIPTURE EXCERPT (click for all readings)
“Therefore, since we have (Ἔχοντες, Echontes)
a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast (κρατῶμεν, kratomen)
to our confession (ὁμολογίας, homologias).
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize
with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly
been tested in every way, yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”
(Letter to the Hebrews 4:14-16.


REFLECTION
Today is World Mission Sunday and this is observed throughout the Church universal. Coming as it does only days after the opening of the “Year of Faith” and the “Synod on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith,” World Mission Sunday recalls specifically Jesus’ command: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).” Both the Synod and the “Year of Faith” have shed bright light on Jesus’ missionary mandate and brought into clear focus broad as well as specific dimensions of the Church’s missionary life that must be engaged in both the evangelizing of the World and the re-evangelizing of those who have been catechized in the Faith, but have drifted away from the encounter with the Person, Jesus.


How timely as the Letter to the Hebrews expresses concerns (some might say alarm) for those who have drifted away from the assembly and encourages them to return. Why? It is all about grasping the uniqueness of Who Jesus is as “the Great High Priest.” As the proclamation from Hebrews begins this Sunday, this is the joy, confidence and hope of the inspired authored: “we have (Ἔχοντες, Echontes) a great high priest.” The Greek verb ἔχω (echo) is appropriately translated “to have.” But a quick check of any Greek lexicon reveals that this verb has many, many shades of meaning. Many of those meanings historically developed as earlier languages, particularly Hebrew and other Semitic languages, did not have the verb “to have.” While there were certainly ways of describing possession without the verb “to have,” as this verb came into later languages of antiquity a distinction was made between the verb’s application to an object and the verb’s application to some aspect of human living. Bauer notes in his Lexicon that when referencing human life, ἔχω means “to stand in a close relationship to someone.” This is the grounding of the author’s confidence. Not an ideology. Not a listing of do’s and don’ts. Not a listing of teachings or principles. Simply, a Person – a unique Person Who is God-in-the-flesh.
Because of Who this Person is, Hebrews is clear about ‘holding fast’ to “our confession.” The translation, “let us hold fast,” is an apt rendering of κρατέω (kratwo) into English, yet antiquity and the context suggest examining the meaning of κρατέω further. While some uses of κρατέω suggest a violent grasping or seizing, others suggest “to use one’s hands to establish a close contact.” Once again, in a human context the image is more of relationship, connection, and encounter. This helps us to view “our confession (κρατῶμεν, kratomen)” not as heartless data stored somewhere in our psyche but rather an act of allegiance wherein each person commits the totality of herself or himself to another – in this case, the Person, Jesus.
For readers of this blog, much of today’s study of the Original Sacred Text echoes what has been seen in print (both the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith) and what has been heard consistently from Pope Benedict and some bishop-participants at the Synod. They have echoed the words of Blessed John Paul II penned in an Apostolic Exhortation at the conclusion of another Synod called by his predecessor. “The primary and essential object of catechesis is, to use an expression dear to St. Paul and also to contemporary theology, “the mystery of Christ.” Catechizing is in a way to lead a person to study this mystery in all its dimensions: “to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery... comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth ...know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge ... (and be filled) with all the fullness of God.” It is therefore to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person. It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ’s actions and words and of the signs worked by Him, for they simultaneously hide and reveal His mystery. Accordingly, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity (Catechesi Tradendae, 5. 16 October 1979).” So important is this insight that it was repeated years later in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “At the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son from the Father. . .who suffered and died for us and who now, after rising, is living with us forever.” To catechize is “to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfilment in that Person. It is to seek to understand the meaning of Christ’s actions and words and of the signs worked by him.” Catechesis aims at putting “people . . . in communion . . . with Jesus Christ: only he can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity (paragraph 426).”
Such is the missionary work we must all engage by virtue of our baptismal incorporation into Jesus Christ. Appropriately, the entire Church gives thanks for the many women and men both of previous generations as well as those who are heroically responding to the Lord’s call and work as missionaries in lands far removed from home and family. Also important this day is to know that while I as an individual may not be a Consecrated missionary in distant land, I am nonetheless impelled to reveal and never conceal the authentic face of Jesus Christ. Seize, therefore, opportunities in this “Year of Faith” to ‘continue being formed in the Faith, to speak always the Truth and to never be deficient in religious, moral or social living (Gaudium et Spes, 20).’