Grace to you!
We continue our reflection drawn from The Letter to the Hebrews. Yesterday, I reflected on the incredible blessing God has given us—that Christ, the Son is the mediator between us and God. Our reflection today develops that theme further by looking at the blessings of the unique and unequalled grace of Christ, whose obedience to the Father, sacrifice on the cross, is for us the unique and the mortal blow to our sins.
The Jewish holiest season, the Yom Kippur(Day of Atonement), may not be familiar to many of us who aren’t members of Judaism. In a simplest way, it is a holy time when animal blood is sacrificed for the sins of the priest and the people, and a goat released into the wilderness. The released goat, “scapegoat”, symbolizing the sins of the people, is carried away into the wilderness, never to return to the community. This practice was the background of the discussion in Hebrew 10. It may not relate to many of us. Hence, I would, imperfectly, suggest an example which could relate easily to many of us, who aren’t of Jewish culture.
Consider a friend or particularly, as this happens more often than desired, a spouse who was unfaithful. He doesn’t have the change of heart as expected. Rather, he buys the wife diamonds, or gold or pearls of great prize as a way of paying for his indiscretions. He does this over and over again.
No matter the quantity or the worth of those gifts, from Lamborghini to diamonds and Rolex watches, etc., these do not replace the transformation of the heart. These can never amend the rupturing relationship.
I use this imperfect analogy to describe our relationship with God. Sometimes, we have a natural tendency to find ways to atone for the wrong we did. I do it sometimes. It’s likely you do it too. By doing this, and adopting this mindset in our relationship with God, we ignore the most important thing. We lack the “form” of true conversion. We are deprived of inner renewal, the transformation from within.
We tell ourselves, by giving so much to the poor, offering so much tithe, or by volunteering so many hours for community services, we can pay forward our misdeeds. We can pay for our past sins also. Those works, and gestures of atonement are good. Yet, they do not necessarily pay for our indiscretions. They may be restorative. That is, they may restore some of the negative ripple effects of the harm done, but they do not take away the harm done.
In the Old Covenant, the application of the law of ritual sacrifices during the Day of Atonement plus the related laws, were seen by the writer of The Letter to the Hebrews as a “shadow of the good things to come” whereas the “true form” of the realities of forgiveness of sins, our salvation, is in Christ (Heb 10:1).
The inspired writer of the letter tells us about the incredible asset we have in Jesus, the Christ. He came and showed us not the shadow of our relationship and the practices but the “real deal.” He did so by obedience to the will of the Father and by offering that which alone could bring the renewal of creation and pay forward our sins. It is the offering of himself, his blood, as sacrifice for our sins. As I Jn 2:2 says, Christ is the “atonement for our sins.”
Adopting, adapting and extending the message of Psalm 40:6-7, the Letter writes: “When Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,’ as it is written of me in the roll of the book.” (Heb 10:5-7).
It explains that this “will of God,” the new sacrifice, the Second and definitive Covenant, truly forgives ours sins. “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb 10:10).
This for me, it is the best news ever. So, to be at peace with God and with the whole of creation, to enjoy the grace of divine justification, to walk in the glory of the forgiven and the redeemed, one does not need to offer God anything that is perishable. Not money. Not silver. Not Gold. Not even your time and intellectual property. “It is the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet 1:18-19).
Only what is needed is to embrace what the Lord Jesus has done. Incredible work of grace.
Did you notice that when you confess your sins to the Lord, you are not giving him anything to appease for what you’ve done? You aren’t mutilating your body as some members of contemporary witchcrafts do, just as their counterparts in the past did. You only align with what the Lord has done on the cross for you. You say, “I am sorry. Forgive me…I come to do your will.”
You do not give him anything. You only freely offer him the access to remold your heart and transform you from within with the grace he has offered once and for all on Calvary. For me, this is breathtaking.
For Catholics, and those who may want to enjoy this grace of forgiveness of sins in a sacramental way, when next you go to Confession, pay attention to the words of absolution given by the priest. He declares what the Lord has given us. He announces forgiveness of sins already paid forward by the Risen Lord.
It’s beautiful to behold. It’s awesome to receive.
Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for forgiving my sins, and for the grace of righteousness. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[3rdWeek Tuesday Ordinary Time: Heb 10:1-10; Mk 3:31-35]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.