Wednesday 12th January

Hebrews 2:14ff. Jesus shared our flesh and blood, our temptations and death, and so is able to help us in our trials.
Mark 1:29ff. Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law, drives out demons, withdraws to a lonely spot to pray, and preaches the good news.

Called to Commitment

We are consoled by the intimate presence of God the Father and of his Son Jesus with our human nature. The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus shared fully in our humanity and even plunged into the dark realm of our dying, adding that this was not to help angels, but rather the children of Abraham. He explains that Jesus had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he might become our merciful and faithful high priest. He was himself tested through life as we are, but remained “without sin”, 4:15. Taking these statements literally – and there is no reason not to – there is no temptation, too ugly or fierce, that Jesus was unwilling to undergo, and it places our own temptations – however embarrassing they may be – right there within our relationship to our blessed Lord.

We may be personally somewhat afraid of the way that God’s immersion in our human life can lead to an intense moment of decision and struggle. In Hebrews we see Jesus caught by the fear of death and the embarrassment of being tempted as all are. This prepares us for the gospel passage where, after preaching in the synagogue, Jesus retires quietly to the home of Peter’s mother-in-law. How human and normal it was for Jesus first to notice her illness; yet he is never present in our earthly home as just another spectator. Jesus went over to her and grasped her hand and helped her up, “and the fever left her.” Immediately, the needs of her guests are noticed, and the mother-in-law proceeds to offer them hospitality. Yet, with Jesus present, things could not totally 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 may have been too much even for Jesus. Early the next morning, he went off to a lonely place in the desert; there he was absorbed in prayer. But word had gone out. Jesus was tracked down by Simon and his companions who told him, “Everyone is looking for you.” Life can never be the same again. “Let us move on to the neighbouring villages so that I may proclaim the good news there also. That is what I have come to do”; Jesus was sent on his way as prophet and redeemer, on a journey that would lead to his death on the cross.

In our own lives, within the wrapping of our flesh and blood, within the warmth of our family, God is thoroughly present, sanctifying each action of love and concern. God’s presence will lead necessarily to conflicts and temptations; we can never again be satisfied with what is half-good. God will expect decisions that can be reached only by prolonged prayer and healthy guidance. We will battle with demons and their fierce temptations, too embarrassing even to discuss, yet never too distant from Jesus’ span of human existence.

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.

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