16 January, 2013. Wednesday of Week 1 in Ordinary Time

Hbr 2:14ff. Jesus shared our flesh and blood and so is able to help us in our trials.

Mk 1:29ff. Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law, withdraws to pray, and preaches the good news.

First Reading: Hebrews 2:14-18

Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Gospel: Mark 1:29-39

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Like us in all things but sin

Hebrews says that Jesus shared fully in our humanity – even in the experience of loss and death. He explains that to be effective as our merciful high priest Jesus had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way. He was himself tested through life as we are, but remained “without sin” (4:15). Taking these statements literally – and there is no good reason not to – one could say that there is no temptation, however ugly or fierce, that he did not undergo, and it places our own temptations – embarrassing as they be – right there within our relationship to our blessed Lord.

The merciful side of our High Priest is also strikingly portrayed in the gospel where, Jesus retires quietly to the home of Peter’s mother-in-law. How human and normal it was for him to care about her fever; yet he is never present to us as just a spectator. In Mark’s vivid account, Jesus went over to her and grasped her hand and helped her up, “and the fever left her.” Then the needs of her guests are attended to, as the fully cured mother-in-law immediately proceeds to offer them hospitality. But when the neighbours are aware of Jesus’ presence things could not settle back to the rhythm of peaceful family life. Crowds gather, the sick are laid at the doorstep, demoniacs and mentally deranged people are freed of the demon within them.

All this seems to  have been too much even for Jesus, because early the next morning he went off to a lonely place in the desert; there he was absorbed in prayer. Even from there the word went out and Jesus was tracked down by Simon and his companions who told him, “Everyone is looking for you.” This galvanises him back into missionary mode, for he says, “Let us move on to the neighbouring villages so that I may proclaim the good news there also.” His great sense of mission drives him on (“That is what I have come to do!”) and it is a mission he would continue right up to his death – and after, through his Spirit, in the life of the church.

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