January 11, 2017 – Wednesday of the First Week of Ordinary Time
The author of Hebrews describes Jesus’ mission as his coming to share in flesh and blood with those who are “being tested” so that he might assist those who are undergoing “the test.” That humans undergo this “test” is the reason for the earthly visitation of the divine compassion. However, in the Our Father, we pray that we might be delivered from the test.
What is this “test?” I believe that it is the burden of human existence, which is another word for suffering. To be “tested” is to experience affliction, pressure, fear, futility, inability. To be tested is to understand that there are values and convictions which shimmer with a godly glow but also to know that we ourselves and our world are at best sluggardly and at worst downright hostile to the realization of these convictions. To be tested is to know of this burden. Bodily sickness and personal failings are symbols of this weight. To be tested means that we are asked, despite this burden, to commit ourselves to God. Human existence is a judgment on our persistence in this regard, our obligation to remain true in the face of darkness and our own demons. To be tested as a human being is to be suspended between good and evil, with the immense dignity and burden of freedom existing in the choice between them.
The knowledge that human existence is a test is the principle of all human compassion. It was that knowledge which brought God to earth. It was that knowledge which drives Jesus to preach the Kingdom of God. It was that knowledge which, in contrast to burdened humanity’s weariness, drove the God-man with unremitting energy to announce the divine compassion, the strength of divine mercy. The healings and exorcisms of Jesus are a deliverance from the test, and a motive energy for perseverance in our own test.
We are not asked to meditate primarily on our own nothingness and bankruptcy in the face of the “test,” but on the divine energy revealed in Christ – that is, the Holy Spirit – which provides the funds, the motive force, the joy to accomplish our own work. We live as borrowers of the divine life. Whatever our own darkness, it has already been flanked and outmaneuvered by the love of Christ. The healings and exorcisms are a sign; the sacrifice of the cross and the Eucharistic body and blood are the reality. Our test is enfolded within Christ’s test, and he always passes with flying colors.