Paul on Paul – 19th December 2021

4th Sunday of Advent
Hebrews 10:5:10

This is what Christ said, on coming into the world: You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation, prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin; then I said, just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book, ‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’
Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.

This Sunday is the 4th and Final Sunday of Advent and the Church, through our readings from Scripture this week guide us to consider the greatest of all the Christian Virtues – Love.

While this week’s 1st Reading and Gospel give us physical examples of love (of God’s love for man and Mary’s love for her Cousin Elizabeth) – but the 2nd reading, instead, gives us an opportunity to consider how difficult love actually is – how difficult it can be to will or act for the good of the other for the sake of the other – and how our Worship of God is how we express our love for God

St. Paul frames this in Christ’s words “This is what Christ said…” which tells us that this ‘struggle to love’ is both ages-old and known by God. He is talking about the struggle of the early Christians and the Jewish people of the time in doing what God had asked for them under the Old Law (or Testement) – the sacrifices they were asked to make; the rules God asked them to follow; or the way they were to worship. But even then – God came to earth to redeem those who did not seek him. God made the ultimate act of love.

But we know this struggle too – that Love is hard. In relationships (whether romantic, social or familial), it can often be the case that it we can ignore or overlook what is asked of us by that other person and try and please them on our terms instead. Think of the child, whose parents ask constantly to tidy their room but instead, the child draws a picture to show them how much they mean to them. There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of the child’s love – but it isn’t a ‘sacrifice’ is it? The child may enjoy drawing, and by undergoing the suffering of the ‘tidying the room’ and doing what the parents asks, shows that the child would be placing the parents wants of their own.

So to with God: in the first books of the Torah (Old Testament) God sets out the ways and means of worship – does to the dimensions of the building, the shape of the vessels and other objects for worship, the rules for sacrifice and offerings – and the rest of the Old Testament is the story of the Jewish people time and again not following what is asked of them, and the consequences of that. Often, they do still worship God – they still offer him sacrifices, they still worship him – but they do it in a way pleasing to themselves, not what is pleasing to God.

Even today, in the Christian World, when Christ said at the Last Supper “Do this in memory of me”, it seems to be very clear what he is asking of his followers in the Church – but yet, how many Churches do not have some form of ‘Bread and Wine’ at the heart of their worship. Or closer to home, how many times do we look out the window and all too quickly say “It’s too wet/dark/cold/windy to go to Mass” when we know we could if we tried (though, of course, there are legitimate reasons as to why some can’t get to Mass – including extreme weather)? How many times are we too quick to find a reason not to attend Mass and say “I will worship in my own way”. Think the same of the Sacrament of Confession too – we can go straight to God, but God also gave us the Sacrament to use.

To show love of God and to neighbour over Christmas let us adopt the words of Christ as per the 2nd Reading: God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.

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