4th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday (Year I)
Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15
The dramatic parade of the “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 11 finds its finale in Jesus Christ, “the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). The gap between the addressees of this homily and the Hebrews Hall of Fame was yawning. Some were “growing weary and losing heart” like dispirited athletes with “drooping hands” and “weak knees” (Hebrews 12:3, 12).
Endure your trials as “discipline,” says our Father and coach. “For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges” (Hebrews 12:6-7).
The Goldsmith wants to polish his beloved children to a perfect shine so that he can see his own reflection in them.
At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.Hebrews 12:11
Not every disciple will be asked to endure persecution like “chains and imprisonment,” “stoning,” being “sawed in two” or “put to death at sword’s point” (Hebrews 11:36-37), but every pilgrim faces an interior battlefield of thoughts, which is the root cause of all the strife in the universe.
The interior discipline of the heart and mind surpasses all exterior wars as it more closely resembles the warfare between angels and demons. The victory of patience or forgiveness in a heart ravaged by the opposite tendencies vanquishes powers and principalities and rejoices heaven’s “cloud of witnesses.”
St. Diadochos of Photiki (c. 400-486) offers spiritual guidance for transforming our heart into an oasis for the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, we must maintain great stillness of mind, even in the midst of our struggles. We shall then be able to distinguish between the different types of thoughts that come to us: those that are good, those sent by God, we will treasure in our memory; those that are evil and inspired by the devil we will reject. A comparison with the sea may help us. A tranquil sea allows the fisherman to gaze right to its depths. No fish can hide there and escape his sight. The stormy sea, however, becomes murky when it is agitated by the winds. The very depths that it revealed in its placidness, the sea now hides. The skills of the fisherman are useless.
Only the Holy Spirit can purify the mind: unless the strong man enters and robs the thief, the booty will not be recovered. So by every means, but especially by peace of soul, we must try to provide the Holy Spirit with a resting place. Then we shall have the light of knowledge shining within us at all times, and it will show up for what they are, all the dark and hateful temptations that come from demons, and not only will it show them up: exposure to this holy and glorious light will also greatly diminish their power.1
In a world that is increasingly polarized in every sphere of life, submitting our hearts and minds to the transforming grace of the Holy Spirit is essential for nurturing peace in the human family.
Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.Hebrews 12:14
1 From the treatise On Spiritual Perfection by Diadochus of Photice, bishop. See Liturgy of the Hours, 4th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Office of Readings.