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Testing times in America

January 30, 2017

Monday 30 January 2017

Hebrews 11: 32 – 40

Chapter 11 of the Book of Hebrews is all about Faith. The part we have heard this morning if from towards the end of the letter, and it has a surprising ending. It starts by listing Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets. These are well known characters from history who the people receiving the Letter to the Hebrews would know about. From the Old Testament, most of them come from the period two hundred years before the birth of Jesus, during the Maccabean Revolt. Do you remember that? It was the Syrian-Greek Empire, the Seleucid Empire, that invaded the Holy Land. They took over The Temple and were deliberately sacrificing pigs in The Temple in order to wind up everyone. All sorts of blasphemous horrors were going on. People were being forced to eat pork – you may remember the stories from the Book of Maccabees. People were appalled by these events and there was an uprising. And the uprising was successful, the Jews re-took The Temple, they restored The Temple. Basically the Letter to the Hebrews was written for people – we think they might have been in Rome – written to Christians early on (it was one of the earliest letters) – and it was basically the Christians being encouraged to ‘keep the Faith…. It is going to get tough, things are getting nasty where you are, you are going to be placed in terrible dilemmas.

Now, how do we react to that situation where we are working under a regime which is not is not at all pleasant? What is someone to do? You. Keep. Faith. You keep the Faith.

And that is what the reading this morning ends on. An unusual note. They are talking about these heroes of the faith who have fought and won. Some have even been resurrected from the dead. It said,

‘These are all heroes of faith, but they did not receive what was promised…’

(that sounds like a double-cross doesn’t it!)

‘… since God had made provision to have something better, and they were not to reach perfection except with us.’

We are not talking about perfection in this world.

Father Paul was talking yesterday about purgatory. We are moving on to perfection, hopefully, rather rapidly. That doesn’t mean I want to die: but I do want to go to Purgatory when I die, and be purified. Those ‘heroes in faith’ are going on to something better that they did not know about. Remain true to the Faith!

I’ll just add an echo here on what is currently happening in the United States, with President Trump, a week after his inauguration, imposing restrictions on Moslem travellers. I dare to do this because of what Cardinal Timothy Dolan has been saying. He is the Cardinal Archbishop of New York and the Chair of the American Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Cardinal Dolan was at the Inauguration just over a week ago, saying a prayer. He was on the radio and I was listening to him yesterday. He has had a lot of flack for attending the Inauguration. Some people say he should not have taken part. He replies that he is a man of prayer, a public figure, and he says he will pray there for the public good. He said he also gets invited to other events by Mayor Cuomo of New York, who is in the other part. The Cardinal says that just because he attends events in a public capacity, that does not mean he necessarily agrees with everything said or done by those inviting him. He basically intimated that he does not like what is going on in the United States. And yesterday Cardinal Blase Cupich, the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, also published a letter about what is happening in the United States and how it is very wrong.[1]

Can we just remember in our prayers those poor souls who are working to try and enforce the law in the United States. Of course there are people who have been detained and all sorts, but what about the poor officials – those people who are humble Christians doing their daily job. They didn’t want this, and are being told to do horrible things

The going can get tough.

Even in our own times, we must keep the Faith.

[1] https://www.archchicago.org/cardinal-cupich-s-statements accessed 30th January 2017

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