Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Saved from sorrow

Today's feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (right after the "Exaltation of the Cross") has an interesting and seemingly self-contradicting first reading. It's from the letter to the Hebrews, that enigmatic New Testament document that's not a letter at all. More of an extended exhortation--to "Hebrews"? Well, maybe even to Jewish priests or Levites: people who would be in a position to catch all the prophetic and liturgical references that make up the warp and woof of the text.
The passage for the feast day refers back to Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane: "In the days when Christ was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence."
Do you see the anomaly? He prayed "to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard." But he still died. The author is saying that he was indeed "saved" from death-- but not "rescued" as in snatched away from harm before the blow landed. This is a grace for us, because we are not often "snatched away" from harm, either. So when the blow lands on us, we know that it has also landed, with all its weight, on Jesus. And yet Jesus was "saved from death."
It is as if Jesus, in his Resurrection, was more perfectly saved from death--the way his mother, by being preserved from Original Sin, was "more perfectly" redeemed by the grace her Son would bring (precisely in his death and Resurrection).

1 comment:

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Clearly, we often define "heard", "saved", and "answered prayer" differently from how God would define them. A perfect life in which we would never be sick, never know poverty or discomfort, and would get everything we want, would be far from perfect in the long run, wouldn't it? We would have no learning, no development, limited understanding (and probably limited compassion), and no opportunity to feel either God's love or the love of our fellow man.