Hebrews 4: 14 – 5: 4
Take a moment to be still and to pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ before reading the scriptures. If you are in the company of others, invite someone to read the text aloud.
If you are gathering with your family, invite someone to read this reflection aloud.
My favourite scene in television takes place on Christmas Eve as White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman walks out of an intense day of therapy in which he is diagnosed with PTSD following a recent shooting. As he walks towards the front entrance of The West Wing, he notices his boss, Leo McGarry sitting waiting for him by the fire. Taken aback that Leo would wait for him the night before Christmas, Josh is greeted with a parable told by a sage who is familiar with the tough terrain of life’s road.
Leo says, “This guy’s walking down the street when he falls down a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, “Hey, you! Can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription and throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts, “Father, I’m down in this hole. Can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole, and moves on. Then a friend walks by. “Hey, Joe, it’s me! Can you help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.” The friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.”
A little solidarity goes a long way.
In Hebrew culture, there was no religious leader more significant than the High Priest. Priests played the unique role of representing worshippers before God and mediating the grace of God back to worshippers. In Hebrews we read of Jesus being the true and better High Priest, a priestly mediator with a pastoral heart full of affection for us.
One of the most wondrous claims of Christianity is found through the outworking of the incarnation: Jesus sympathises with us in our weakness.
We don’t follow a God who has taken up residence in a faraway kingdom, leaving us to roam the badlands by ourselves. No, Jesus draws close. In His becoming like us, He intimately knows our frame and His response is always surprisingly gentle.
The extent of testing that Jesus faced far outstretches anything we can imagine. He endured the full range of human pain, suffering and temptation, never once caving in. Jesus has walked through the wilderness before, He knows the lay of the land. When we face heartache, loneliness, misunderstanding, emptiness and enticement, feeling the urgency to cover it up in fear of an angry God who looks down on us, we instead sense the presence of a gentle Friend, who doesn’t pity us but co-suffers with us. The One who never sinned draws alongside us when we are weakest and knows where to go from here.
In the words of Dane Ortlund:
“In our pain, Jesus is pained. His human nature engages our troubles comprehensively. The reason that Jesus is in such close solidarity with us is that the difficult path we are on is not unique to us. He has journeyed on it himself. It is not only that Jesus can relieve us from our troubles, like a doctor prescribing medicine; it is also that, before any relief comes, he is with us in our troubles, like a doctor who has endured the same disease.”
Such wonder, such grace! Jesus knows precisely what you are going through and in spite of it, comes closer. Often we approach a back-to-front God, believing we need to get our stuff together before we dare darken the courts of the King. When, in fact, at the point when we are weakest, we can approach the throne confidently, even as we stagger, propped up by the High Priest.
Often I turn to St. Patrick’s Breastplate prayer as I spend time in the company of Jesus. In recent days, I have been reciting the ancient words of, “I bind unto myself today, the power of God to hold and lead.” As I pray these words, I imagine Christ holding me up when I am tired and sore, one arm wrapped around my shoulders, the other tenderly placed on my heart. Together we take small strides forward, one at a time, as He leads me on. Along the road I’m comforted by His presence and glad that He knows the way. He’s been here before.
Whatever trials you may face today, may you know the solidarity of Christ. May you be held by Him as He leads you towards mercy and grace.
“I bind unto myself today,
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need,
The wisdom of God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The Word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guide.”
Depending on which time of day you are practicing this office, you can use the morning or evening prayer. All to pray the following words aloud.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
St. Francis of Assisi
If you are gathering with your family, wait a moment and listen for the voice of God. Prayerfully share any words, pictures, encouragements or scriptures with each other by the laying on of hands.
Whether you are by yourself, or in the company of others, take time to pray for others that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, blessing them in His name.
Close your time by singing or saying aloud the Doxology.
“Fight back the dark with doxology. Doxology can detox the day.”
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen and Amen.