Friday, February 5, 2010

Memorial of St. Agatha, virgin and martyr

(Sirach 47:2-11; Mark 6:14-29)

The word enigma comes from a Greek word meaning riddle. An enigma is more than what meets the eye. Or, we might say, an enigma confounds the eye. To some people Senator Jesse Helms was an enigma. He seemed to oppose attempts by government to assist the needy, yet he and his wife adopted a child with a severe physical challenge. In the first half of the narratives of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus appears to observers as enigmatic. He works wonders like the prophet Elijah. He confronts hypocrites like Amos or other prophets. He announces the kingdom of God like John the Baptist. Demons know his true identity, but it is elusive to other humans.

Haunted by guilt, Herod Antipas supposes that Jesus must be the reincarnation of the Baptist whose head he capriciously had chopped off. A few chapters later in this gospel Peter will correctly name Jesus as the Messiah, but no one will understand what that term means until he dies on the cross. Then the Roman centurion, an objective witness, will proclaim Jesus the “son of God” after observing his innocence and faithfulness lived out to the last breath. On the third day Jesus will rise from the dead so that all doubts may clear away. Jesus is no longer an enigma but, indeed, the most sterling truth for one to grasp in life.