17 October, Sunday — Jesus’ humanity

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isa 53:10-11
Heb 4:14-16
Mk 10:35-45

For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way thatwe are, though he is without sin. 

When I first read this passage, I found it familiar from the times it had been used in the Good Friday and Easter readings. During those masses, I had found it reassuring, but then had not thought further about it.

Perhaps it is because my perceptions of Jesus have usually tended more towards His divinity. After all, Jesus is the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the Saviour of the world, who rose from the dead to win for us eternal life. Though Jesus is definitely all of these and much more — which is an unending source of hope and strength — if I focus only on these images, I can sometimes feel rather distant and small.

But a few days after I read this passage for Oxygen, I happened to see a painting of Jesus chatting to his followers as they walked to Galilee (https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/2021/09/16/all-in/). I found it a rather unusual and refreshing portrayal, as it depicted an ordinary situation quite unlike the pictures I had seen of the key events of Jesus’ life. But its ordinariness made me able to relate to the figure of Jesus it showed (Would He and his disciples have felt hot in the sunlight? Would they have felt tired travelling the whole day on foot? What would they have talked about?) and soon I found myself realising that Jesus, in becoming human, would certainly have been very familiar with the entire gamut of human experience, including the mundanities of daily life.    

Indeed, Jesus spent His first thirty years as the son of a carpenter in a small town. He would presumably have spent much of this time helping His mother with household chores, learning carpentry from His father, playing with the nearby children, listening to the conversations between His neighbours. These experiences and insights, while not covered in the Gospels, would later form the vivid foundation for Jesus’ parables and deep understanding of the people He encountered, and are an important part of Jesus’ identity too. Imagining these little moments also helped me to remember the other ways that Jesus’ humanity is illustrated in the Gospels themselves (among many examples, His need for ‘me time’ to pray in the mountains, His amazement at the faith of the Roman centurion, His grief for Lazarus). It hence provided me the reassuring reminder that Jesus is not far away in heaven watching over (or worse, judging) us, but really is one of us. His understanding of our human strengths and weaknesses, and his infinite mercy and compassion will enable us to ‘confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help’.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Jaclyn Lam)

Prayer: Jesus, continue to remind us of your boundless compassion and generosity. Through your grace and strength, help us to extend this same compassion and generosity to all whom we encounter as much as we can.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we praise and thank you for the gift of yourself and for humbling yourself to be one of us.

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