Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thursday in the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Reflection or Reality?

Readings: Hebrews 7:25—8:6; Psalm 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17; Mark 3:7-12

But he warned them strongly not to make him known…

Why, we may wonder, did Jesus not want the unclean spirits to make him known? Isn’t it true, what they say in media circles, that any publicity is good publicity? This is a question even the scholars continue to puzzle over. Did Jesus simply wish to shun publicity? Why then did he not avoid the great crowds who kept coming to him? Did he not wish to be known as a wonder-worker? Why then did he continue to work miracles and to heal? As we ponder this question and consider its relevance for us today, we might turn to the first reading for insights that might help us.

Here the focus continues to remain, as it has for the past few days, on the priesthood of Christ. Today the writer introduces a useful metaphor to help us compare the ritual sacrifices offered by the priests of the Law and the one sacrifice offered by Christ. The former, he says, only maintain the service of a model or a reflection of the heavenly realities. The metaphor used is that of a reflection in a mirror versus the reality it images. For the writer, the reality that these rituals reflect, the true sacrifice that brings salvation is that of Christ who was obedient even to the extent of becoming a human person, teaching and healing, dying and rising, and now continually interceding for us before the Father. Important then that the ritual sacrifices are, it is important not to mistake the reflection for the reality. Could this provide us with some possible indication of the meaning behind Jesus’ actions in the gospel today?

Could Jesus’ reluctance to let the unclean spirits reveal his identity have something to do with the ease with which people often mistake the reflection for the reality? Could it be that the wonders Jesus was working were meant to point to something deeper – something about who he is and how he frees us and leads us to salvation? Could it be that to let the unclean spirits reveal him as the Son of God at this point in his ministry could lead people to miss out on this more profound aspect of the mystery? Could it be that the meaning behind the miracles he was working could only be grasped when seen in the light of what was going to happen to him further down the road?

Even as we continue, along with the scholars, to ponder this question, we might also reflect upon ourselves. What is our current experience and understanding of who Jesus is and what he does for us? To what extent does it match the reality of the Jesus portrayed in the gospels? And how are we faithfully reflecting this reality to the people around us today?

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