January 16, 2013 - Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Hebrews 2:14-18
Psalm 105:1-4, 6-9
Mark 1:29-39

“Since he himself was tested by suffering, he is able to help those who are tested.” This is one of the most powerful lines of the book of Hebrews. Jesus Christ knows what we are going through because he went through it himself. Obviously, he did not suffer in every imaginable way that humans have suffered, but all suffering has a certain resemblance. He may not have had cancer, but anyone with cancer ought to be able to look at the Cross and see something of what they are going through. He was betrayed by one friend, and those who stayed with him did not really stay with him. Only his mother and a few others were there at the end, of all those whom he had helped. As we see in the Gospel today, thousands were healed by him each day. Where were they when he needed help? Of course, it had to be that way. It was always his intention to die for us. If he had chosen, he could have inspired his followers to defend him. Nevertheless, he did die nearly alone, in great suffering. At the end, he even expressed his feeling of being abandoned by God. God himself came down to earth so that in the end God would know what it is to feel abandoned by God.

So we cannot say to him, “You do not know what it is like.” No matter what our experiences or our suffering, this is not a fair accusation. You might say to anyone else, “You do not know what it is like”, but God does know. He knows because he experienced it. Even unto death. And if our suffering is from temptation, he suffered from greater temptations. We might spit at the world in anger, but he knew that he could destroy it by simply choosing to.

Who would have guessed, without knowing beforehand, that the Gospel which starts with Jesus proving that he God by his powerful works would end with his refusing to use that power to prevent his own suffering? The entire purpose of his life was suffering. He showed that he had the power to take away suffering, and then he suffered anyway, proving that suffering has value, that it is not worthless or meaningless. When God allows us to suffer, sometimes the greatest help is remembering that suffering must have meaning since he did it though he did not have to.