Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

St. Paul speaks to us this morning of hope, “of the hope set before us” which is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast . . . .”  I’m not sure why the Church has elected to appoint this reading from Hebrews to be read today in our churches, except to say that it might be because we need to reassured and given hope that having gone this deeply into the Fast of Great and Holy Lent there is meaning and purpose behind our intensified prayer and fasting.  Has it been worth it?  What do we get out of all the self-denial and cross-bearing? 

However, these are not merely questions of those who are deep in Lent.  They are questions of Christians who have been at this following Jesus for a long time.  In fact, this whole section read this morning is set within the larger context of chapter 6 which specifically addresses those who have been “once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the Age to Come.”  “[I]f they fall away,” the Apostle asks, how can they be restored and renewed again to repentance seeing that they crucify once more for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame?  It is a frightening prospect (if it isn’t it, it should be!) to backslide to the point of open contempt for our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ once we have been baptized, chrismated, and partaken of His divine nature in the Holy Eucharist!  It is one thing to fall into sin, to stray and err along the way.  It is quite another to willfully, deliberately, and intentionally go with Judas to sell Jesus and to help crucify Him for an allegedly greater profit or love.  This is apostasy and it is impossible, St. Paul warns, to be renewed again to repentance (Hb. 6:4-8).  Once our born again hearts are re-hardened by such deliberate, willful, and intentional turning away, they become nearly impervious to the overtures of God’s grace and stubbornly resistant to the work of the Holy Spirit Who seeks our repentance.  This is why the Church urges her sons and daughters to quickly repent when they have soiled their Baptism and run to Confession in order to receive divine absolution so as to keep the heart pliable, soft, and supple to the work of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin and to lead to the Mercy Seat of God.

“But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you,” says the Apostle, “yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.”  The Sacred Scriptures hold out hope for all who persevere and persist in faith, following in the footsteps of our Father, Abraham.  “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His Name, . . . .”  Indeed, “we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hb. 6:9-12).  In short, says St. Paul, all this Lenten labor of love is worth our time and effort!  God is not unjust, nor forgetful of all that we do for His holy Name.  He calls to mind our prayer and fasting and almsgiving, just as He did the centurion, Cornelius’, prayers and alms which came up before the Almighty as a memorial (Ac. 10:1-4, 30-31).  And, because God remembers, that means He will bless and reward those who remain committed to Him in faith and patience, just as He blessed and rewarded Abraham’s faith and obedience, even though, in human terms of time, it seemed like forever, it seemed as though God had in fact forgotten His promise to Abraham! 

Whether or not elephants have minds like traps and do not forget, I don’t know.  But, this I do know, God, Who created those elephants, has memory eternal.  The only thing He does forget are sins that have been repented of, confessed, and absolved.  “’Behold, the days come,’ saith the Lord, ‘that I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah . . . I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more’” (Jr. 31:31-34).  “As far as Heaven extends over earth, so the Lord has made His mercy extend over those who fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He taken our sins from us.  As a father has compassion for sons, so will the Lord have compassion upon those who fear Him” (Ps. 102 [103]:11-13). 

Beloved, this much we are sure of.  It is our anchor of hope, sure and steadfast, because it is anchored deep in the heavenly Temple, anchored deep in the Holy of Holies wherein our Great High Priest Who shares our humanity stands before the Mercy Seat of the Father and ever intercedes for us (Hb. 2:9-18; 4:14-16; 7:25).  Indeed, this is our hope – the hope of the Christian, the hope of the Church – God, Who is immutable, has sworn and will not change His mind (Ps. 109 [110]:4; Hb. 7:21).  For God cannot lie (Nm. 23:19; Ts. 1:2).  All things are indeed possible with God, except this one thing: He cannot lie.  For God, this is impossible (Clement of Rome).  God has given His Word of promise and He has given His Word of oath.  These two things, says the Apostle, are unchangeable, unalterable, immutable because God is unchangeable, unalterable, immutable.  God’s Word is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hb. 13:8) and His Word is Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Word of the Father made flesh (Jn. 1:1-18).  In Christ, beloved, “all the promises of God . . . are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Cr. 1:20).  Jesus Christ, then, my beloved brethren, is the very Covenant of God – His Word of promise and oath – given to us as a surety and hope (Is. 42:6).  Jesus Christ is the enfleshment of the divine oath sworn and the divine promise fulfilled, the Captain of our salvation (Hb. 2:10) and “the Author [Originator] and Finisher [Perfecter] of our faith” (Hb. 12:2).  He is our Brother and Forerunner Who has gone on ahead of us to prepare for us a place in the Father’s house.  “’Let not your heart be troubled,’” Jesus says to us, “’you believe in God, believe also in Me’” (Jn. 14:1-4).  For we are receiving a Kingdom – the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – that cannot be shaken, obtained for us by this “Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant” Whose blood of the Everlasting Covenant speaks better things than that of Abel (Hb. 12:24-28; 13:20).

This Jesus, crucified, risen, and ascended into Heaven at the Father’s right hand, is our High Priest forever “according to the order of Melchizedek.”  Unlike fallible, earthly priests who live and die, this Jesus has been raised up from death never to die again.  Death has no more dominion over Him (Rm. 6:9).  Thus, He stands eternally secure in the heavenly Most Holy Place, and there, through His sacrificial Blood of the Everlasting Covenant, as an eternal Memorial before God, He pleads for us, beseeching the mercy and the grace of His Father be poured out on us sinners for the remission of our sins, for our cleansing and purification, and for our union with God.  For this Jesus, unlike any other High Priest, is the God-Man Who, by His dying and rising, has opened up for us repentant sinners the way of salvation.  “’For no man comes to the Father except through Me’” (Jn. 14:6).

Therefore, my beloved, let us steadfastly fix our spiritual gaze on this Jesus (Hb. 12:2).  God provides us with strong consolation in this Jesus to Whom we have fled for refuge.  Let us, then, lay hold on Him Who is from everlasting to everlasting (Ps. 89 [90]:2), and not “cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: . . . .”, “even the salvation of your souls” (Hb. 10:35-36; 1 Pe. 1:0), even as Abraham, the father of all who persevere in faith and patiently obey the promise and oath of God.           

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God,

have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!


Hb. 6:13-20

Mk. 9:17-31