Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
(Hebrews 3:7-14; Mark 1:40-45)
A retired preacher of boys’ retreat was asked why he gave up the practice. He answered that the fire and brimstone that he used to scare the boys no longer had a positive effect. He said that once boys were visibly shaken by exaggerated descriptions of eternal punishment, but they had come to dismiss the possibility. Perhaps the author of the Letter to the Hebrews is aware of this tendency in the second reading today.
The reading quotes the Old Testament in describing the effect of sin. It does not say that sinners will be tortured but, much more simply, that they not enter into God’s rest. Then it encourages readers to become allergic to sin so that they do not surrender to its promptings.
Sin is allowing selfish desires to take precedence over doing God’s will. In a sexual temptation sin is saying that one’s desire for pleasure is more important than the personal integrity of that person’s partner or, indeed, of the person’s own integrity. We never want to become comfortable with this kind of thought. Indeed, we want to resist it from the beginning.