Living the Gospel – February 2, 2020

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“…Surely he did not help angels, but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people…”

As I read the familiar passages of today’s Gospel, I realized that it continues to assure us – in the same way as it did Simeon and Anna – that Jesus was truly the Messiah. My thoughts then wandered, and I decided to revisit our New Testament reading – the Letter to the Hebrews – and I became intrigued with the author’s words.

There’s a meditative technique we often use when we have difficulty getting into the “heart” of a passage in sacred scripture. In this, we imagine ourselves as one of the people in the story – a listener, a teacher, perhaps a witness to the scene. I decided to enter the experience as an active participant, paying attention to my innermost thoughts.

I thought of the setting and identified myself with the people in the crowd. As one of the Hebrew listeners, I knew that we had been helped by God in our ancient past. However, today, I feel confused and discouraged, and I need confidence that my path to God is the right one. Can I follow the Way of a man who had been executed by the Romans as a criminal, no matter if others believed him innocent of any guilt? What reassurance can I find? These could be my questions if I were actually present. Thanks be to God, the letter didn’t disappoint me.

This amazingly eloquent Letter reviewed much of the Hebrew’s salvation history in hopes of comforting them: from references to the book of Genesis to the redeeming death and resurrection of Jesus. The excerpt above helped explain His incarnation and the meaning of His life and ministry among them. Could these People of God actually trust in Jesus as the Merciful High Priest? Clearly, many decided that they would!

Then I remembered some of the priests I’ve known. My memories of their mercy, kindness, and understanding will stay with me for the rest of my life. Despite the foolish things with which I’ve too often burdened them, they stayed faithful to their mission to heal, forgive, and serve. What is the message I can take away from this reading? Perhaps I need to remember to pray for them each day, bless their efforts to help all who come to them for comfort and healing – and imitate their life commitment to Jesus, the Merciful and Faithful High Priest who gave His life to save us.

Dorothy Hathway Forbes, OCDS