The author of Hebrews portrays Jesus’ life as a long pilgrimage through human life. Jesus steps into the footprints of every kind of human existence, and even sharing our temptations and discouragement.
Now, in chapter 11, the author of Hebrews summarizes the earthly pilgrimage of Jesus in another way. The author lists a litany of Old Testament saints, all of whom struggle heroically to fulfill the will of God in their lives. These saints, upon closer examination, are a ‘motley assortment’. No class is passed over, low or high station in life, male or female, individually or members of communities. The Letter to the Hebrews seems to be insisting that by following daily in the earthly footprints of Jesus, as Jesus did in ours, we will be ready for the moment of great trial.
The Gospel today tells the powerful story of an unlikely missionary-disciple. He is the demoniac. When the man, now cured of his mental illness and strange ways, wants to follow Jesus, Jesus accepts his offer but sends him forth to proclaim throughout the Ten Cities what Jesus had done for him. Jesus did not enter into the causes of mental illness nor worry about the consequences of being associated with a former demoniac. Jesus saw a brother of good will and fervent enthusiasm. So Jesus showed a tenderheartedness to his new disciple.
We are told that Jesus “grew in wisdom, age and grace”. As such Jesus gave people time and space to grow. That is an important attitude. There was a gentleman who had a drinking problem. His family tried to help him. He joined an organization that tried to help. All without success. Then one evening, as he was driving home, the gentleman took the road to his favorite bar. Mistakenly, he took the wrong turn, which led him to a dead-end street. As he was turning around, the lights from his car fell on the front lawn of a house. There stood the statue of Our Lady. His eyes and his heart fixed on Mary. The experience not only made him sober for life but it made him an apostle for sobriety and for life.
We will always find unlikely heroes and heroines. “If the Church is alive, she must always surprise”. (Pope Francis)
Fr. Theodore Walsh, C.P.