Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The power of life

After I posted that wonderful video (Life: Imagine the Potential), I see that many people on Facebook are changing their profile pictures to a pro-life declaration. Maybe that is what led me to notice the theme in today's readings about "the power of life."
It first comes out in the letter to the Hebrews. Speaking of Jesus' eternal priesthood, the letter says that this isn't an inherited status (as it was for the Levitical priests), but is his "by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed."
We see this life in the Gospel. It is a kind of a "smackdown" situation in which the gauntlet is a human being whose life is compromised: a man with a "withered hand." Those who positioned the man in Jesus' line of vision did so as a provocation. "They wanted to see if Jesus would cure on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him." You can almost feel the wrath of God flash across Jesus' face at seeing a needy human being used as a trap.
Jesus accepts the challenge. Whereas elsewhere in Mark's Gospel, Jesus would draw the needy person aside, heal him privately and send him off with an order of silence, here Jesus heals in full view of the assembly. His word of teaching makes clear that he is doing God's work, and that it is the power of God, the power of a life that cannot be destroyed, at work in him. Amazingly, his enemies are even more determined to have him destroyed.
St. Paul would see this as a Gospel of power being made perfect in weakness. First, the weakness of the injured or ill man; later, the weakness of Christ Crucified; now, our own weakness in following Jesus and making his presence in the world manifest.
But despite all that weakness, we are dealing with "the power of a life that cannot be destroyed." The resurrection will be the ultimate smackdown: Jesus has already won the victory.

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