The first readings for this week are taken from the Letter to the Hebrews. The psalms are ones that speak of the covenant of God with his people. The gospels are taken from the earliest days of Jesus’ public ministry when he confronts the chaos, disorder and evil in the world, seen in the unclean spirits, illness, leprosy, and paralysis to which he brings release, freedom, and restoration of what God intended – that man be whole.
The gospels of this week clearly point to the divine nature of Jesus, who as the Word of God, has fulfilled the promises given to the patriarchs and prophets, that God Himself would come to shepherd us (Ez 34) and be one, like Moses, to liberate us for an intimate life with God.
The first readings are a reminder that it is in union with the humanity of Jesus that we are saved. In today’s reading we hear:
“Since the children share in blood and Flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the Devil.” (Hebrews 2:14)
In Hebrews, Jesus the man is superior to the angels but was made “for a little while lower” than them in that he suffered death (v. 9; yesterday’s first reading). These texts declare the true humanity of Jesus, a humanity shared with all human beings, who in v.10 are called God’s “children.” In order that Jesus’ death might be for all a liberation from slavery to the power of death (vv. 14–15) as Jesus shared their human nature fully.
In the early 2nd century, St. Irenaeus of Lyon reminded us that Jesus is vere Deus, vere homo – truly God, truly man. At the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D) the church formally declared that Jesus was truly man and truly God. His two natures were not mixed, confused, separated, or divided. Both and. It is the mystery of our salvation and we often need to be reminded of the humanity of that salvation.
Image credit: The Temptation in the Wilderness, Briton Rivière (1898) | Public Domain