Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Today's readings are starkly different from each other. The first reading (Hebrews 13:1-8) gives advice to Christians on how to live as though Jesus really matters. The list should be familiar to us: love, hospitality, keeping the prisoners and other outcasts in mind, treating your spouse well, avoid falling too much in love with money and desire for things.
It's an easily said and remembered list - but some of these really are hard to do in practice! What does it mean to be hospitable at 2 am when my youngest kid is waking up and all I want to do is sleep? And, it sounds great not to have a "love of money" but it's tough not to be worried about bills and money. Sexual images and serial relationships are pervasive in our culture, making lifelong monogamous marriage sometimes seem utterly ridiculous. Perhaps hardest of all is keeping in mind people like prisoners, whom we often forget as a society. After all, they are outcasts for a reason, and it can be hard to remember that Jesus calls me to do something counter cultural. Jesus even calls us to love our enemies! Loving the outcast and enemies can be something that makes us afraid of offending other people
The author of Hebrews reminds us, though, with faith in Christ, what have we to be afraid of? We have many witnesses of people, including Christ himself, who have done amazing things in the name and light of Jesus. How else could saints have sustained grueling, often thankless care of the sick, the homeless, prisoners, and yes, enemies (among other things)? It is not because they are getting anything out of those tasks, but because they have the light of Christ and they know the love that Christ gives.
The gospel reading (Mark 6:14-29) gives a contrast point. What happens if we don't attempt to live in the light of Christ? What happens when our desires for money and sex and being looked on well by others replace our love of God? Herod gives us an example. He is the king of Judea who murdered John the Baptist. John had accused Herod of adultery; it is also clear from the passage that Herod liked nice things.
No wonder he think John has come back to haunt him, in the person of Jesus! Jesus brings the message John also had brought, which is to proclaim the good news that we do not have to be tightly tied up by our desires to things. Like Herod, we like our stuff though - it can be hard to see that our stuff doesn't make us free. Jesus can set us free, to live without fear of what other people think, free to love generously, even people who are our enemies or who don't return our love.
Today, let us hear this good news and live the life to which God calls us, without fear.
- Jana Bennett