Paul on Paul – 21st March 2021

5th Sunday in Lent; Year B
Letter to the Hebrews 5:7-9

During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard.
Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation

Usually, in a week where Paul on Paul is not focusses on a letter clearly written by Paul – it’s clear who has – Peter or James, for example. The Letter to the Hebrews is a slightly strange occassion of this, where we simply do not know for sure who wrote this letter, and there is little consensus – even in the early church – about who actually wrote it. Some think it was St. Paul, some one of his followers, some think someone who had learned from him less directly…some someone else completely. It remains a Biblical mystery.

Yet, despite this uncertainty – this Sunday’s and next Sunday’s second reading are ‘companion pieces’ of a sort. Both have an idea of Christ being humble and that that humilty allowed him to achieve his ends – our salvation. The humanity of Christ did not want that painful death on a Cross – but his divinity of Christ allowed him to bear that burden for us and submit to the Will of the Father.

Through our Lenten Sacramental lens then, we can consider this as an analogy of obedience – something linked to the Sacarments of Marriage and of Holy Orders. Both have different natures, but both require a sacrafice of some portion of the self to have meaning.

Marriage is a Sacrament not administered by a Priest – but by the soon to be husband and wife. It isn’t – despite how some may characterise it – about a woman submitting to a man (or, indeed, a man submitting to a woman for that matter). It is a partnership of people and wills, with each requiring to make sacrifices for the other for the other’s sake (that Definition of Love appears again), and eventually for children should they appear. This is a kind of obedience that isn’t demanded or owed (that would be a sign of a bad marriage), but instead it due out of love and respect for the other.

This can be contrasted slightly with Holy Orders. Many priests say that the most difficult aspect of Holy Orders isn’t what many would anticipate – but, in fact, the vow of obedience to their Bishop. While a Bishop cannot abuse this power, it can be very difficult to place your life – even down to where you stay – entirely in the hands of another. But, even if the priest doens’t agree, or thinks another way is better, or even thinks their Bishop is downright wrong – they require to obey and follow – due, again our respect, but also love of Christ and the Church.

And the lay faithful – you and I – should endure in that spirit of obedience too. The Church’s teachings are not to be easily dismissed. The Pope – regardless of which Pope it is – is the head of our Church and His guidence should not be rejected out-of-hand. For the Church leads us to Christ, the truth, and our lives on earth allow us all an oppurtunity to “learn to obey through suffering”.

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