Friday 21st January
Hebrews 8:6ff. Jesus, our high priest is mediator of a new and better covenant between God and us, as was announced by the prophet Jeremiah.
Mark 3:13ff. Going up a mountain, Jesus commissions the twelve to preach the good news and to expel all evil spirits from the hearts of those who turn to him.
Vibrancy of the New Covenant
As Jesus goes up the mountain to summon the twelve men he had specially chosen as leaders among his followers, it evokes memories of Moses who went up Mount Sinai to receive God’s law and covenant, Exod 19. There, too, Moses solemnized the covenant, surrounded by chosen leaders, Exod 24. Even though the writer of Hebrews declares the first covenant to be obsolete, he and other NT writers see a strong continuity between the two covenants. When Jeremiah announced that in the coming days God make a new covenant with the house of Israel, he was not saying that the Mosaic order was annulled and its covenant abolished, for if he had, Jeremiah’s book would not have survived within the sacred tradition of Judaism.
What is obsolete in the old is not what it says but how we obey. The letter kills, the spirit gives life. We must seek to be conformed to the least desire of God, not as slaves but as children, not for seeking reward as much as for expressing love and gratitude, not for external show but for inner peace. Even the smallest demand of the law is fulfilled in essence when a Christian lives in that spirit, Matthew 5:18.The covenant is lived amid the vicissitudes of human life.
Jesus went up the mountain and summoned there those whom he had chosen. Throughout the Bible the mountain has been a favourable place for prayer and for erecting temples and sanctuaries. Here is an excellent example of combining the external symbols of strength with the interior spirit of love. In order to acquire the new spirit of love for living the new covenant, we need to ascend the mountain – to be often alone in prayer, to find our one security in the Lord. So important is this attitude that Luke tells us Jesus spent the entire night in a prayer-vigil before calling the twelve. The mountain scene calls us to be alone in prayer, alone with God’s sovereign majesty over our lives, total in our obedience that reaches to our hearts and interior motivation. These ingredients can make our old life into a new undertaking, our old covenant new and vibrant with the presence of Jesus.
First Reading: Hebrews 8:6-13
But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one. God finds fault with them when he says: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” In speaking of “a new covenant,” he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.
Gospel: Mark 3:13-19
He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. So he appointed the twelve: Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter; James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder; and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.