Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tuesday in the First Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Angels and Humans

Readings: Hebrews 2:5-12; Psalm 8:2ab and 5, 6-7, 8-9; Mark 1:21-28

Jesus our savior has already been born for us. The Light of Christ has already come to dispel the darkness of our hearts and our world. In the next six weeks of Ordinary Time, we will allow our weekday readings from the Letter to the Hebrews and the gospel of Mark to focus our attention on this One who is our Light and our salvation. We will allow ourselves to reflect more deeply on the way in which Christ brings us to share in the eternal life of the Father.

And perhaps the first thing that strikes us about Jesus in the gospel of today is the power and authority that he wields. Here is a teaching that is new, the people exclaim, and with authority behind it… even… unclean spirits obey him. This is a power and an authority that we too might desire for ourselves. And, as baptized Christians, we are indeed called to wield it. But we need first to be clear about what this power and authority might be.

I myself tend very easily to think of it as the power of angels, because I am sometimes attracted to the many obvious advantages to being an angel. An angel has no body, and so an angel could probably be in more than one place at the same time, would not be limited to 24 hours in a day, wouldn’t need to sleep, wouldn’t suffer from any illnesses, wouldn’t have to deal with all the messy practical details of daily living…

But is this the kind of authority that Jesus exercises in the gospel? Is Jesus powerful because he is able to escape the inevitable limitations of everyday human life? Obviously, Jesus’ authority flows from who he is – the only begotten Son of the Father. But this is not an angelic authority. For as we heard in the first reading: God did not appoint angels to be rulers of the world to come… No, the power and authority that Jesus wields is that of one who embraces the fullness of human life. Again, as the letter to the Hebrews reminds us: the one who sanctifies, and the ones who are sanctified, are of the same stock. Jesus was glorified by the Father not by escaping but by embracing the messiness of our human existence. His power comes through a loving and humble submission to powerlessness. He allows himself to be made perfect through suffering even to the point of death.

If this is so, then, like that man in the synagogue today, I too need to allow Jesus to cast out from me the unclean spirit that tempts me to crave the life of an angel. I need to allow Jesus to teach and share with me the power to embrace my own humanity as the only sure Way to the Father.

Today, how are we being invited to embrace our humanity more firmly, so as to share more fully in Christ’s divinity?

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