Monday, January 17, 2011

Memorial of Saint Anthony, abbot

(Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 2:18-22)

Writer-teacher Frank McCourt tells of a bus driver who was able to relate to an African-American high school student in a way that he never could. McCourt’s class was returning from a cultural activity when the student began talking with the bus driver who was also African-American. She asked the driver about his family. The driver said that he had children and was working hard to send them to school so they wouldn’t have to drive buses for a living. He said that Black people had to work hard in the United States if they were going to get by but in the end that was good because the struggle made them stronger. When the girl told him that she wanted to become a hairdresser, he chided her that she could do better, that she was smart and could go to college.

Although there is nothing wrong with being a bus driver or a hairdresser, the lesson which the bus driver gave resembles the wisdom of the Letter to the Hebrews. Jesus’ suffering allowed him not only to identify with the rest of humanity; it also purified him so that he might give himself completely to his Father. In these ways he also “was made stronger.” This truth may sound strange if we think of Jesus as one conscious of his divinity since the day he was born. But in numerous passages the New Testament relates that he suffered like the rest of humanity. Yet the suffering did not deplete him of virtue but multiplied it within him.

Today the United States honors one of its greatest heroes. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke up for struggling minorities who were being deprived of opportunity to show their ability. He preached to the well-off of Christ’s love for the poor and also to the impatient of Christ’s way of nonviolence. He dreamed not so much of a color-blind America but of a society in which all peoploe would be respected for the “content of their character.”