From: Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15
The Example of Christ (Continuation)
Perseverance in Affliction
 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it
yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Striving for Peace; Purity; Reverent Worship
4-13. Following Christ’s example, Christians should struggle to avoid sin; they
should put up with tribulation and persecution because if such adversity arises
it means that the Lord permits it for our good. The letter’s tone of encourage-
ment seems to change here to one of reproach. It is as if the writer were saying,
“Christ gave his life for your sins, contending even to the point of dying for you;
how is it that you do not put up with suffering, out of love for him? It is true that
you are being persecuted: God is disciplining you as a Father disciplines his
children. But you are children of God and therefore your attitude should be one
of abandonment to his will even when it seems hard. That is the way a Father
brings up his children.”
The main point is that the only important thing is fidelity to God, and that the sin
of apostasy is the greatest of all misfortunes. “Don’t forget, my son, that for you
on earth there is but one evil, which you must fear and avoid with the grace of
God: sin” (St J. Escriva, “The Way”, 386).
5-11. Suffering, the sacred writer teaches, is a sign of God’s paternal love for us;
it proves that we really are his children.
This teaching is supported by the quotation from Proverbs 3: 12, taken from a
long discourse in which a father exhorts his son to acquire true wisdom. In the
present passage the father is identified with God and we with the sons whom he
By being incorporated into Christ through Baptism a person becomes a child of
God: this is the very basis of the Christian life and it should be a source of sere-
nity and peace in every difficulty we meet in the course of life. The term “disci-
pline” which appears so much in this passage does not convey the full richness
of the original Greek word, “paideia”, which has to do with the educational up-
bringing of child by parent, of pupil by teacher, and also the punishment meted
out in this context. Here the focus is largely on the second aspect. However, it
should be remembered that in ancient times education and instruction always
involved the idea of punishment. God, therefore, should not be seen as a cruel
or pitiless father, but as a good father who brings up his children in an affectio-
nate yet firm way. Adversity and suffering are a sign that this divine teaching me-
thod is at work: God uses them to educate us and discipline us. “You suffer in
this present life, which is a dream, a short dream. Rejoice, because your Father-
God loves you so much, and if you put no obstacles in his way, after this bad
dream he will give you a good awakening” (St J. Escriva, “The Way”, 692). If we
were illegitimate children he would not bother to educate us; but because we are
true sons he disciplines us, to make us worthy of bearing his name. “Everything
that comes to us from God,” an ancient ecclesiastical writer reminds us, “and
that we initially see as beneficial or disadvantageous, is sent to us by a father
who is full of tenderness and by the wisest of physicians, with our good in mind”
(Cassian, “Collationes”, VII, 28).
When the soul has this kind of attitude, that is, when the trials the Lords sends
are willingly accepted, “with peaceful fruit of righteousness” and it yields fruit of
holiness which fills it with peace: “Jesus prays in the garden: “Pater mi” (Mt
26:39), “Abba, Pater!” (Mk 14:36). God is my Father, even though he may send
me suffering. He loves me tenderly, even while wounding me. Jesus suffers, to
fulfill the Will of the Father.... And I, who also wish to fulfill the most holy Will of
God, following in the footsteps of the Master, can I complain if I too meet suffe-
ring as my traveling companion?
“It will be a sure sign of my sonship, because God is treating me as he treated
his own divine Son. Then I, as he did, will be able to groan and weep alone in my
Gethsemani; but, as I lie prostrate on the ground, acknowledging my nothing-
ness, there will rise up to the Lord a cry from the depths of my soul: “Pater mi,
Abba, Pater,... fiat!” (St J. Escriva, “The Way of the Cross”, I, 1).
12-13. This exhortation follows logically from the previous one. It seems to evoke
the world of athletic competition referred to at the beginning of the chapter. Verse
12 is like a shout of encouragement to a runner who is beginning to flag in the
middle of a race.
The author uses a quotation from Isaiah (Is 35:3) in which drooping hands and
weak knees indicate moral decline (cf. 2 Sam 2:7; 4:1; Jer 47:3). He then goes
on to use words from Proverbs 4:26 to encourage right living: “make straight
steps with your feet”: if the Christian perseveres in his efforts even if he is some-
what “lame”, that is, even if he is someone whose faith is weak and is in danger
of apostasy, he will be able to return to fitness in spite of everything.
However, this exhortation can be taken as addressed not only to those who need
to mend their ways but also to Christians in general, who should be exemplary
and never in any way be a stumbling-block to their weaker brethren.
14. These words echo what our Lord says in the Sermon on the Mount: “Bles-
sed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”. Jesus promises
those who promote peace that they will be sons of God and therefore share in
God’s inner life, which makes man holy. The Apostles and disciples of the Lord
often repeat this teaching (cf. Jas 3:18; Rom 12:18; 1 Pet 3:11). Being at peace
with God, which comes from docility to his plans (v. 11), necessarily leads one
to foster and maintain peace with others. Peace with God and with one’s neigh-
bor is inseparable from the search for holiness. Christ brings about the fulfillment
of the ancient promises which foretold a flowering of peace and righteousness in
the messianic times (cf. Ps 72:3; 85:1 1-12; Is 9:7; etc.).
“Holiness”: it is not just a matter of avoiding sin. one needs to cultivate virtue and
to desire to attain holiness with the help of grace. Holiness or Christian perfection
is the common goal of all Christ’s disciples. Salvation and holiness are really one
and the same thing, for only saints can obtain entry into the presence of God:
only those who are holy can see the Holy One.
“You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). These words
of our Lord are always echoing through the Church; today more than ever. “Today,
once again, I set myself this goal and I also remind you and all mankind: this is
God’s will for us, that we be saints.
“In order to bring peace, genuine peace, to souls; in order to transform the earth
and to seek God our Lord in the world and through the things of the world perso-
nal sanctity is indispensable” (St J. Escriva, “Friends of God”, 294).
15. Theodoret comments on this passage as follows: “Do not be concerned
only about yourselves; rather let each of you look after the other; strengthen the
waverer and assist him who needs your helping hand” (”Interpretatio Ep. ad Hae-
breos, ad loc.”). A Christian needs to be concerned not only about his own soul,
his own salvation; on his conscience should also lie the salvation of his brothers
and sisters in the faith. He should be like a gardener who cares for his plants
and makes sure no weeds or diseases spread through his garden. In the Old Tes-
tament, the man who denies his faith is described as a root bearing poisonous
and bitter fruit (cf. Deut 29:18). Anyone who is indifferent to a brother’s infidelity
endangers those around him, for bad example can spread like an epidemic. This
passage is reminiscent of St Paul’s reproach to the Corinthians: “Do you not
know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Cor 5:6).
Hence the need to be ever vigilant to ensure that no one through his own fault
loses the gifts God has given him; “the true apostle is on the lookout for occa-
sions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers to draw them towards
the faith, or to the faithful to instruct them, strengthen them, incite them to a
more fervent life; ‘for Christ’s love urges us on’ (2 Cor 5:14), and in the hearts of
all should the Apostle’s words find echo: ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gos-
pel’ (1 Cor 9:16)” (Vatican II, “Apostolicam Actuositatem”, 6).
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.