Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Since the children share in blood and Flesh,
Jesus likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one
who has the power of death, that is, the Devil,
and free those who through fear of death
had been subject to slavery all their life.
A very dear friend of mine, a brilliant and well-educated man, had a habit of preaching about “this idea of hope.” He really wasn’t speaking about an idea; he was talking about hope. But, educated like me, he could not seem to break the ties between an idea, which is a human invention, and the reality, which is God’s grace. When I pointed this out to him he denied that he ever talked like that. It was not his intention.
Saint Francis of Assisi had the peculiar advantage over my friend and me of not being well-educated. A brilliant, creative mind, he could barely read or write; and yet he retained huge portions of the scriptures. He listened intently whenever he heard a reading, like a cinemaphile who can recite every line of every film he’s ever seen. And, to promote that simile into metaphor, he would not notice the difference between the actor and the role. Dorothy would always be Dorothy and never Judy Garland. Salvation, love, hope, faith: these were never ideas about how one should live one's life to Saint Francis. They were powers that enabled one to act freely in the joy of God's children.
He challenges me to read this section again: Since the children share in blood and Flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the Devil.
No one ever asked Francis of Assisi, “Do you think there is a Devil?” Francis was never distracted by such an idea; he called on Jesus as his Champion and Lord to save him from the devil. And in the end he enjoyed that freedom from the fear of death to which we are subject. His conversion came not through accepting an expert’s opinion but from receiving a divine grace.
Francis brought the same attitude to the Mass. This is not bread and wine; it is the precious Body and Blood of Jesus. Saint John’s words address directly our restored celebration of the Mass: “Since the children share in Blood and Flesh…” Entering the 21st century, we hear and obey what our ancestors never heard because it was inaudibly recited in Latin, “Take and Eat…. Take and Drink!”
Through our sharing in the blood and the flesh Jesus destroys the One who has the power of death, and frees us to practice our faith, hope and love.