Memorial of Saint Agnes, virgin and martyr
(Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 2:18-22)
Writer 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.
Just like the bus driver could relate to the student in McCourt’s story, Jesus is able to relate to us. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus knows human suffering and offers men and women a hand in overcoming the self-pity and resentment it tends to create. In fact, with the graces merited by Jesus’ own suffering, humans can turn those bitter reactions into the virtue of compassion. In other words, they can be made stronger.
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 country where all people would be respected for the “content of their character.”