Saturday 22nd January
Hebrews 9:2ff. Jesus enters the true Holy of Holies, not of human making, to cleanse our conscience to serve the living God.
Mark 3:20ff. Jesus and the disciples return home, and is mobbed. His relatives fear that he is out of his mind.
God Caters for our Human Needs
We see Jesus retire, either into the Holy of Holies, his home with God the Father, or into his home at Capernaum to rest and to take nourishment. In each case Jesus attends to human needs, in the heavenly Holy of Holies by redeeming us and at Capernaum by tending to the crowds who assembled for instruction and healing.
In heaven and on earth Jesus offers his blood as a source of life. The heart of Jesus had to beat with more intense fervor and to impel life-sustaining blood throughout the body, so that Jesus might maintain his all-consuming ministry. As Mark remarks, it was impossible for Jesus and the disciples to get any food whatever. The activity turned out to be so incessant that his family, when they heard of this, came to take charge of him, saying ‘He is out of his mind.’
The blood of Jesus again becomes the source of life, this time liturgically, according to Hebrews . The author is comparing the death of Jesus with the Yom Kippur ceremony at the Jerusalem temple. On this day of atonement the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled blood towards the Ark of the Covenant and the “propitiatory” or “mercy-seat” which rested on top of the Ark. Here God was thought to dwell, invisibly but effectively, Exod 25:17-22. The sprinkled blood signified a flow of life between God and the people Israel. Just as blood that moves from heart to limbs unites each member of the body in one living organism, so the sacrificial blood intimately bonded God and the people together in a shared life – life in its full expression, as a pledge of everlasting happiness.
We are told in Hebrews that we are united with God through the blood of Jesus. The basic symbolism of blood looks towards life, not towards death – yet we cannot help but remember the death of Jesus by which the veil of the temple was rent apart and Jesus entered into the most holy place. Even this death, however, is remembered as a sign of Jesus’ love and dedication to us, even as a surety that Jesus shared every moment of our life, especially that moment which is the most human of all, the moment of our death. If Jesus is so completely bonded with us – for we share the same life-carrying blood – then we are where Jesus is; and Jesus is where we are. As Jesus’ blood mystically flows through our veins, its purity and strength cleanse our consciences from dead works. As a result, every action of ours becomes an act of worship of the living God.
Jesus is so caught up in the needs and sorrows of our human existence, according to the gospel of Mark, that he has no time even to eat. His family think that he is no longer responsible for himself and plan to “take charge of him.” They remark that “He is out of his mind.” The two sides of Jesus’ humanity become very visible. First, Jesus is neglecting his health and must be forced to take some rest and nour-ishment. From the flip side of the coin, Jesus is seen to be overcome by the sight of human misery and need and lost within this surging sea of flesh and blood. The flow of life-giving blood between Jesus and ourselves cannot be more vibrant and incessant.
Following Jesus asks us to to enter the two homes that are united as one living presence through his life-giving blood. In the footsteps of Jesus we are drawn into the Holy of Holies and caught up in the mystical and contemplative wonder of God’s presence. Here we find ourselves cleansed already by the strong blood of Jesus and enabled “to worship the living God.” Again we follow Jesus into his home at Capernaum and allow ourselves to be absorbed within the mass of humanity, all our brothers and sisters, crying out for love, understanding, healing and new life.
First Reading: Hebrews 9:2-3, 11-14
For a tent was constructed, the first one, in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of the Presence; this is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a tent called the Holy of Holies. In it stood the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which there were a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot speak now in detail.
Such preparations having been made, the priests go continually into the first tent to carry out their ritual duties; but only the high priest goes into the second, and he but once a year, and not without taking the blood that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tent is still standing. This is a symbol of the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper, but deal only with food and drink and various baptisms, regulations for the body imposed until the time comes to set things right.
But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent, not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!
Gospel: Mark 3:20-21
Then Jesus went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.
When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”