Commentary on the Gospel of
In the first reading, the writer to the Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus shared in our human nature. We, the children of God, share in blood and flesh. Therefore, Jesus came in the flesh and had blood coursing through his veins. Why did the eternal Son of God do this? First, he wanted to be like his brothers and sisters in every way. Jesus didn’t come to help angels but the descendants of Abraham, real flesh and blood human beings. He also became incarnate because he wanted, as one of us, to free us from the slavery imposed upon us by death. Death had done a number on the human race and Jesus, by his atoning sacrifice, destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is, the Devil. We need be afraid of him no longer. We need not dread death. The power of death is gone. If all death can do is keep you in the tomb for three days, then it essentially is powerless. This is what Jesus accomplishes with his resurrection. I may stay in the tomb longer than three days but my end is the same as Jesus. Death is dead. Jesus also takes on our nature because, understanding our human frailty, he has the experience to be a merciful and faithful high priest before God. When he stands before the Father on our behalf, we can be assured that he understands us. He’s one of us. Finally, Jesus became flesh and blood because he wanted to show us that there is power to help us when we are tested. He shows this by being tested himself.
The Lord also has a long memory. The psalmist says that he remembers his covenant for ever. He made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that all the nations of the earth would be blessed because of and through them. We are Abraham’s children and God is still fulfilling his promise. Everything Abraham touched turned to gold because God was pouring his grace out upon everyone around him. He continues to do this through us. We are sacraments of his grace - God’s children through whom he pours out his blessings upon the earth. “Give thanks to the Lord, invoke his name, make known among the nations his deeds.”
Every year at the Christmas Vigil Mass we hear the reading of the genealogy from Matthew’s Gospel. All of those names; it can be a challenge to hang in there when that list is read! Had you noticed that Matthew’s list begins with Abraham? There were generations of people before him. In fact, Luke’s genealogy begins with Adam. Why Abraham? Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that the nations will be blessed through him and his descendants. Our Gospel reading today is a simple illustration of this. Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law. He heals the sick and drives out demons. He gets up early to find a deserted place where he can pray and have fellowship with the Father. When told that everyone is looking for him, that he has the town in the palm of his hand, that this could be the beginning of something special, he leaves the area because he didn’t come to make a name for himself but to be an instrument of God’s grace. He came to fulfill the promise made to Abraham.
St. Paul says that through baptism you and I become the children of Abraham. We are called to be instruments of God’s peace. Unafraid of death which had its fangs pulled by Jesus, we serve the world with humility and grace. Making a name for ourselves is not our mission. In fact, a hundred years from now, will anyone know our name? The verse for today which is sung with the Alleluia answers this question. “My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord. I know them, and they follow me.” God has a long memory. He knows his children. He will not forget our names.