Hebrews 9:24-28

I am not privy to the ways of the lectionary, either ancient or modern, and sometimes I see the connections clearly between the readings and sometimes I do not. I had a hard time making sense of how Hebrews 9:24-28 fits with the other readings for the Thirty Second Sunday and the responsorial Psalm, each of which focuses on those who are faithful and generous in their poverty and God’s compassion for the poor, the outcast and marginalized. I thought I might avoid posting altogether, until I read, and reread, Barbara Green's post. She has dealt beautifully with these readings in her post below. The conclusion of her entry made me wonder if it could be applicable to the reading from Hebrews; she wrote, "but these gifts of compassion, where the widows continue to be generous despite everything, offer an even greater invitation to us, which Jesus himself seems to recognize and learn from, be inspired by. Give from our substance, give it generously, compassionately."

While she did not draw a connection from 1 Kings and Mark to the reading from Hebrews, her last line, "give from our substance, give it generously, compassionately," drew me to the description of Christ’s sacrifice in Hebrews. Is this what was intended by those who compiled the lectionary? There seems to be little in common with the cosmic significance of Christ’s sacrifice and the generosity of the widows, but is that truly the case?

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Hebrews is a text that has usually intrigued me due to Platonic categories of the "ideal" and the "copy," that show evidence of Hellenistic Jewish philosophy, such as that found in Philo of Alexandria, grounded not in the compassion of widows, but in Greco-Roman metaphysical categories. But the more I reflected on Green’s line, "give from our substance, give it generously, compassionately," it also sums up Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, made once for all, and the category of the "real" at which the author of Hebrews aims. Christ gave of his true substance, his being, so that we too could enter with him not into a sanctuary "made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one", but "into heaven itself." We should be inspired by this, just as by the widows to "give from our substance, give it generously, compassionately." It also makes me thankful that we can rely on other scholars, other thinkers, who in their work and writing give of themselves, for inspiration can strike in many, unforeseen, ways.

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