The following is from a commentary by Fr Denny Dempsey:
“Our second reading this Sunday from the book of Hebrews presents a number of problematical points. How can the author say Jesus’ supplications were heard when he ended up being crucified? If Jesus “learned obedience,” doesn’t that imply that he wasn’t obedient before? And what can it mean that Jesus “was made perfect?” Jesus was the Son of God. In what way could he be considered “imperfect?”
I tend to think of obedience as an action, “being obedient” or doing what one is told to do, but that’s not the core meaning of the word. “Obedience” is a combination of two Latin words: “ob” meaning “under” (here not in reference to location but being “under” another’s authority) + “audire,” meaning “to hear” (think of “audio”). The word in the Greek text, “hupakoen,” has the exact same meaning (“hupo” = under, “akuos” = to hear …”acoustics”). Obedience begins with attentive listening. Through his prayer Jesus learned to listen attentively to the voice of God the Father, to discern the will of God and then carry it out.
As to Jesus being “made perfect”, the Greek word refers not to perfection in contrast with imperfection, but rather to being finished as compared to being unfinished with some tasks still to be accomplished. Jesus’ mission was not complete until his saving death and resurrection through which he became the source of eternal salvation.
In what sense did God hear Jesus’ supplications? God didn’t save Jesus from dying, but he did save him from death. Jesus’ ultimate prayer was that the will of God be done, and he was heard. God used his Son’s earthly life to show the world the depth of his love for us…and the victory over death in which we, too, will have a share.
Teach me, Lord, to listen intently to you in prayer, that I might accomplish all that you desire of me, bearing the crosses along the path you have prepared for me. When the day comes that, like Jesus, I must bear the ultimate cross of dying, let me share in his victory over death and share in his resurrection for all eternity.”