Homilies on Book of Hebrews, Part 3. Approaching The Throne of Grace

In today’s Second Reading from Hebrews, we see,

“Brothers and sisters: Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”

  • To confidently approach the throne of grace
  • To receive mercy
  • To find grace for timely help.

I want to start with that last part - To find grace for timely help. But first let me me introduce you to Ann Voskamp. Ann says the following about herself:

I’m Ann Voskamp, a plain Ann without even the fanciful “e”, wife to The Farmer, mama to 7, and honestly, I’m a bit of a mess. but It’s okay, really.

I had a full-tuition scholarship to university and never finished. I married a farmer instead & came home to gravel roads & cornfields.

I had babies. Half a dozen beautiful babies and one birthed from our heart and flow to our home from China. My laundry basket is never empty. I lose library books. I homeschool our crazy kids and most days I feel just a tad bit overwhelmed and crazy.

When the kids and the washing machine sleep, I wash my real dirt down with words and The Word.

I stayed up late way too long and wrote my first book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

For some crazy reason, God’s put it on the New York Time’s Bestseller’s list for something like 65 weeks and it’s sold more than a million copies and been translated into more than 22 languages. It’s proof that God really does use broken, messed up, fallible lives anyways. Telling my brokenhearted story is simply telling how “The Greatest Story Ever Told” has completely changed mine.

Yeah, there was the Today Show with Kathie Lee Gifford, and articles in ChristianityToday.com, WORLD Magazine and Huffington Post, but I feel most ridiculously alive as an advocate for Compassion. You know why? … honestly? The only words that really matter… are the ones I live.

And this convicts me.

I keep writing it out here every day, the words I am seeking to live — about this wondrously messy, everyday-holy life….about finding beauty and quiet, about slowing to see the sacred in the chaos, like when a child runs up to you and saying “Look mommy, I made a cross out of clothespins.”

The flame in the bush.

Just listening – laundry, liturgy, — all of life, holy ground, holy experiences - because

God has flaming bushes everywhere.

I had breakfast with a parishioner recently. They run a successful business. They are a gifted athlete. They are generous to the church and committed to their Marriage and their family and their parish.

A little while ago they explained that they felt they needed to do something else that something different to help others. So they came up with the idea to start baking pies. Yes, you heard right. Baking pies.

They gotten to be pretty good at it. But what is interesting is not so much the pie but for whom it is baked. If you keep your eyes and ears open. You were here we are in the parish people are hurting, people are desperate, people are sad. You hear it in Trader Joe’s. At Wegmans. In the Starbucks. Next to the soccer or baseball field. Whenever they hear where someone is in need of comfort. This person makes a pie, places it in a magnificent well prepared well-constructed box. And then just drop it off at the other person’s doorstep with a note, this has been baked with love for you so that you know that you too are loved. A friend gave them a nickname – “The Pie Angel.”

Sounds like a pretty crazy nice idea doesn’t it?

It wasn’t two days later that I read an article by Ann Voskamp. Ann wrote about an article, entitled, “When Life Gets Dark, Try This Secret.” It originally appeared in the Huffington Post. It was a story about nine women — or “The 9 Nanas,” who lived somewhere in West Tennessee, not far from Graceland. At 4am they begin a daily routine — a ritual that no one, not even their husbands, knew about - for 30 years! They have one mission and one mission only: to create happiness. And it all began with baked goods.

The women started listening. They’d eavesdrop at the local beauty shop or when they were picking up groceries. And when they heard about a widow or a single mom who needed a little help, they’d step in and anonymously pay a utility bill or buy some new clothes for the children.

The Nanas would find out where the person lived and send a package with a note that simply said, “Somebody loves you” — and they’d be sure to include one of MaMaw Ruth’s special pound cakes.

After 30 years, the husbands found out - and they joined in. Fast forward and the 9 Nanas told their children. The kids suggested selling MaMaws pound cake on line. Soon they were receiving 100 orders a day. They hired a “happiness coordinator” to leverage the spread of grace even further. Recently they donated more than $5,000 of pillows and linens and personal care products to a shelter for survivors of domestic violence. They’ve calculated that they’ve spread almost $1 million in happiness.

Jesuit priest, Father John Foley, S.J. writes ,

Often we think of God as a helper, someone who helps us to get the things we need. The great parent in the sky. Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm is an example: “See, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death.” This is a wonderful childlike attitude, and it is good.

But sometimes the results are not.

What Jesus is saying, in effect, is this: You will taste suffering, everyone will, and that suffering will make you deeper. Suffering can stretch and widen the human soul, making it large enough to know God.

But, it won’t necessarily make you deep in the right way. Suffering can make you deep in compassion and forgiveness, but it can also make you deep in bitterness and anger.

Only compassion and forgiveness bring glory into your lives.

Father Ron Rolheiser writes about this thing called “glory.”

We all nurse the secret dream of glory. Partly this is healthy, a sign that we are emotionally well. Jesus defines glory very differently than we do. Real glory, for him, is not the glory of winning a gold medal, of being a champion, of winning an Oscar, or of being an object of envy because of our looks or our achievements.

Glory consists in being deep in compassion, forgiveness, and graciousness—and these are not often spawned by worldly success, by being better-looking, brighter, richer, or better muscled than those around us.

This is something that needs to grow and mature inside of us.

This takes time. This takes going through stuff and, just when you are beaten and tired and discouraged and scared, someone bakes a pie.

  • Confidently approaching the throne of grace.
  • Receiving mercy.
  • Find grace for timely help - for someone else.

Our secret dream of glory is meant to mature so that eventually we will begin, more and more, to envision ourselves as standing out, not by talent, looks, muscles, and speed, but by the depth of our compassion and the quality of our forgiveness. (Rolheiser)

Audio version of the homily is here:

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