Second Saturday in ordinary time

Hebrews 9. 2-3, 11-14; Psalm 46.2-3, 6-9(LXX); Mark 3.20-21

For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blook of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.  (Heb 9.13-14)

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The interesting word here is conscience. What does it mean for Jesus’ blood to ‘purify your conscience from dead works’? At first, I wonder at that power: we may go to the Lord in confession and receive absolution. Our sins have been forgiven; but does absolution purify our conscience? It seems to me to be far more difficult to receive grace at that level. Looking again, I wonder whether the ‘dead works’ of conscience are not exactly that: carrying the burden of sins that God has forgiven.

Perhaps I have always been mistaken about what it means for a Christian to have a clean conscience. A clean conscience, I thought, meant knowing you had done no wrong. But the writer to the Hebrews says otherwise. A pure conscience gets that way by being purified. That, it seems to me, is another thing entirely. Christ’s act of reconciling us to the Father overcomes our sin, making us new as if we had not sinned: ‘If anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation…’

And I realize just how little I experience and live in that reality. I believe, Lord: help my unbelief.

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