4th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday (Year I)
Hebrews 11:32-40; Mark 5:1-20
What more shall I say? I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle, and turned back foreign invaders. Women received back their dead through resurrection. Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth.Hebrews 11:32-38
Heroes of the Old Testament roll out of the book of Hebrews like a soul-stirring litany. True tales of the valiant men and women of old shaped the heart and character of the nation of Israel. Listeners of this rallying cry to faith and perseverance would have connected instantly with the named and unnamed preservers of their ancient covenant with God.
The journey to the promised land has never been paved with ease, the forerunners of Christ show. From stories of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being burned alive by King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3) to the wise old Eleazar who was tortured for refusing to forsake his religion before Greek authorities (2 Maccabees 6:18-31), Israel’s heroes proved themselves worthy of the Christ for whom they waited.
Many Jewish Christians teetered on the brink of apostasy as lukewarmness and acedia threatened to pull them away from following Christ. Loss of property and friends (Hebrews 10:32-34) became a source of discouragement and disillusionment with the crucified Messiah (2:1; 4:14; 6:1-12; 10:23-32).
Resurrection is mentioned four times in this chapter, with reference to Enoch, Abraham and Isaac, mothers whose sons were raised from the dead by Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:32-37), and those who “were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35).
The message is clear: the holy ones of the Old and New Covenants looked forward to a heavenly homeland and inheritance not of this world. Neither Jesus nor the Prophets ever preached a health and wealth (prosperity) Gospel.
That may partially explain why Jesus allowed a “legion” of demons to rush into a herd of pigs in the Gerasenes (Mark 5:11-13). The tortured, demon-possessed man raving in the tombs—an image of the human race enslaved to the devil—was set free by Jesus to the upset of the townspeople. Property and possessions ranked higher than God and neighbor.
The animals sacrificed for the healed demoniac drowned in the sea, leaving a frightening picture of the power of evil. It was a foreshadowing of Christ on the Cross. In order to free Adam from the power of sin, death, and the devil, “Legion” rushed into Christ on the Cross. However, the Son of God plunged into the sea of his Father’s love and rose with an immortal body. Sin, death, and the devil lay vanquished by their own fatal blow.
Jesus has risen and taken the earth (including plants and animals) with him.
The Church… will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.Catechism of the Catholic Church 1042
We join the saints past, present and future as one Body of Christ in the glory and joy of the Blessed Trinity.
Yet all these, though approved because of their faith, did not receive what had been promised. God had foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be made perfect.Hebrews 11:39-40