The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
Leviticus 19: 1 – 2, 9 – 18
Psalm 119: 33 – 40
1 Corinthians 3: 10 – 11, 16 – 23
Matthew 5: 38 – 48
It is hard to believe that our journey from the ashes of Ash Wednesday to the baptismal waters of the Easter Vigil begins in only ten days. It seems that just a few days ago we were gathered here, around the Christmas crèche, singing carols and celebrating the Feast of the Nativity. Already, the season of Epiphany is almost over and we stand at the threshold of Lent. Our Lenten journey will begin, as it does every year, with the mark of our mortality, which we will wear on our foreheads, until newly washed and smelling of the oil of chrism, we emerge dripping wet from the baptismal font. This journey which we take each Lent is not simply a liturgical or sacramental journey, it is a journey through life, when we face again the paradox of our humanity, which is that we are both fallen and redeemed. We are both sinners and saints. We live both in the wasteland outside the gates of Eden and in the garden outside the Empty tomb. We have something about us both of our First Parents, Adam and Eve, and the Second Adam, our Lord and Saviour.
Some very unlikely partners have been dancing around in my head this last week, a kind of “odd couple” duet. I’ve been reflecting on these verses from the Sermon on the Mount—which are some of the most radical and resonant words ever spoken. And then, alongside those reflections, intertwined with those reflections, twirling around with these reflections on the dance floor of my mind has been a meditation on stem cells.
I know very little about stem cells; I managed to get through the educational system with no training in biology beyond 7th grade science class. But a recent article in the Boston Globe got me to poking around a bit. As best I can tell, a stem cell is a kind of generic cell that has the potential to become a specific kind of cell in the human body. A stem cell carries encoded genetic information that gives it the capacity to become a specific type of cell: a bone cell or muscle cell or blood cell or soft tissue cell, etc. Stem cells are present in human embryos, as well as in the mature body—in bone marrow, for example.