Years ago, dear friends, I saw a fellow walking through East Los Angeles with a very interesting expression printed on his baseball cap, or cachucha as they often say in Spanish. I will translate for you, but first the expression: Que viva la suegra….muy lejos de aqui! Very tongue in cheek, the lines on the cap read: Long live (my) mother-in-law…very far away from here! There you are, another mother-in-law joke! Not having a mother-in-law I am hardly in a position to comment on why such genre exists in humor, be it jokes told on a stage or expressions found on a young man’s baseball cap. However, the jokes are out there and, as we discover in a passage from today’s Gospel, even Simon Peter had one…a mother-in-law that is, not a joke! And the Lord loved her very much and cured her from a debilitating fever, even as he cured many others in the same town. Naturally, the people flocked to the front door of Peter’s home searching and hoping for something miraculous to happen. Yet, Jesus’ response was most revealing as he later said very quietly, "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come." How often we seek the Lord for his miraculous cure and healing touch, yet more important to the Lord is that we listen to his message, to the heart of his preaching as the one sent to us by God.
In our beautiful passage from Paul’s letter to the Hebrews we learn even more about this one who was sent by God for our sake. Paul tells us that Jesus is just like us, one who shares in blood and in flesh. And because he is one like us in all things but sin Jesus has the power even to overcome "the one who has the power of death, that is, the Devil." And still more heartening and endearing is Paul’s reminder that Jesus did not come to help angels, but rather, to bring his healing message to us, the descendants of Abraham. In this wonderful passage Paul concludes by saying, "Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested." Jesus, the one sent by God, the one who is just like us, the one who knows the meaning of suffering and struggle, he is the one, our faithful high priest who stands before God on our behalf. What hope and encouragement God’s holy Word gives us this day!
Fr. Pat Brennan, C.P. is the director of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.