4th Tuesday in Ordinary Time
The letter to the Hebrews sets before us the shape of Christian life. It does this not by philosophical speculation or by consulting experience but by keeping the eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of our faith.
We profess to keep our eyes on Jesus but we remain blind to the Cross. The letter to the Hebrews makes the cross central to the life and mission of Jesus. Jesus came to bear the Cross. This is so counterintuitive that like Peter we go into denial. We might speak about the cross of Jesus but act as if it were some sort of accident, not something essential.
If the Cross were essential to Jesus, then it will be central to our lives. If we can go into denial and somehow think the cross is accidental, then we can live with the illusion that we might be able to dodge this bullet. That somehow we will remain immune or can make ourselves immune to it.
The letter to the Hebrew reminds us that there is one course for us Christians – the struggle against sin, a struggle that is unremitting and that never ends. This is the shape of the Cross in our lives. There is no shortcut. So great is this battle that is also calls on us to shed our very blood. If we are to follow Jesus, then we have to shed blood too. The Cross is inevitable. In the early days of Christianity, every one saw the perfect following of Jesus as martyrdom. To live as a Christian was to be ready for martyrdom.
The interesting thing is that monastic life was always conceived as a life of martyrdom because the monk was to follow Christ without reserve. The total handing over of self to Christ in living the renunciations of the monk was a martyrdom much as the martyr by his or death handed over himself or herself unreservedly to Christ.