Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday word, 14 Jan 2009

First Wednesday of the Year (14 Jan 2009)
Hb 2.14-18; Ps 105; Mk 1. 29-39
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Seeing Leads to Practicing

A few verses earlier the preacher of what has been named the Letter to the Hebrews said we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor” because he suffered death. God vindicated Jesus for what he did: suffered death. Jesus’ suffering and death implies Jesus’ fidelity to his mission to release us from the fear of death. Faith has an ethical dimension: faith has practical effects.

The preacher of Hebrews enlarged Jesus’ practical and practiced faith to include us. Jesus likewise shared in...blood and flesh, the same blood and flesh, which are ours. By that sharing and by his suffering and death, Jesus set free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.

Two comments are helpful. First, this slavery is not an event of short or long duration like a person held hostage for a few hours or the decades African slaves were subservient in our nation. It is a constant condition. The Second Vatican Council described it this way:
It is in the face of death that the riddle a human existence grows most acute. Not only is man tormented by pain and by the advancing deterioration of his body, but even more so by a dread of perpetual extinction. He rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the utter ruin and total disappearance of his own person. ...All the endeavors of technology, though useful in the extreme, cannot calm his anxiety..../1/
Jesus’ death released us from this servitude. We have to cope with it, yes, but it is not our destiny. Holding faith reassures us of that.

Second, Jesus’ share in our blood and flesh, that is, our entire nature, calls us to stand faithful as Jesus did. Not only for Jesus did faith have an ethical dimension! Jesus beckons us to put into practice our faith. Practicing faith allows us to see Jesus, as the preacher of Hebrews encouraged. Practicing faith, as St. Paul taught/2/, allows us to respect others because all people are united to Jesus because Jesus shared our human nature.

1. Gaudium et spes [The Church in the Modern World], paragraph 22.
2. 1 Corinthians 6.17-20. This is St. Paul’s first use of his metaphor of Christians forming the body of their risen Lord. He used it to respond to questions of immoral activity. These verses are the larger part of the second reading at Mass this Sunday.
Wiki-image of Jesus beneath the Winepress by Giovanni Dall'Orto, who holds the copyright to it, has given permission for its reuse.

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