What strikes me most about our readings for this Wednesday, just as we begin what the Church calls "ordinary time", is that there is a very poetic contrast between the Letter to the Hebrews and the account presented in Mark’s Gospel.
St. Paul reminds the Hebrews that Jesus is one of them, that he shares in the very flesh and blood. And yet, as much as he is like them the extraordinary will happen through him: he will destroy the power of the Devil who can wield on death and not life; who offers slavery and freedom. This Jesus who is of their very blood did the unimaginable, the unbelievable. And the great freedom and life that Jesus so generously bestows is given to "the descendants of Abraham" and not to the angels who had no need of his salvation. Jesus is seen in Hebrews to be the merciful and faithful high priest who removed the sins of the people because he himself suffered greatly and endured the greatest test possible, his passion and death on the cross.
All of us who hear this message proclaimed are reminded that we share with all of Israel this same common bond: Jesus, who came among us to suffer and die, was like us in all things but sin. Our Savior, so joyfully welcomed in his nativity, is just like us; Jesus is not a stranger to the suffering and brokenness that is so much a part of our human experience and condition. Our "Savior" is just like us; he knows what we endure; he knows the crosses we carry. As St. Paul says so beautifully, "Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested." How well, then, does Jesus know in such an intimate and personal way what it is like for us to seek to be free from sin and free from the pain and sorrow of daily life!
In Mark’s Gospel we see Jesus in a whole new way: Jesus is healer who walks among his people curing them of their illness and disease. Here Jesus is totally other than us and we can only imagine the amazement of those who would see him defy death and the limitations of human life by simply raising his hand and lovingly assist Peter’s mother from her bed of pain! We are reminded through the poetic contrast in today’s readings that Jesus is totally one with us yet, in the amazement of the Incarnation, totally other and we thank God for the fullness of the life that Jesus brings to us each and every day.
Fr. Pat Brennan, C.P. is the director of Saint Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.