Thursday 20th January
Hebrews 7:25ff. In Jesus we have the supreme high priest, who serves in the true tabernacle of heaven. This was a great source of confidence in the author’s time (late first century), when Christians had been excluded from both the temple and the synagogues; indeed, it remains a supportive Christian conviction to the present day.
Mark 3:7ff. Great crowds from Galilee, Judea and even from Gentile areas press around him. Unclean spirits cry out in his presence. Matthew shows Jesus as the compassionate, tireless shepherd of his people.
Religious Enthusiasm and Realism
The suspicion of the Pharisees is fanned into hatred when they notice the popularity of Jesus among the crowd. As men and women of faith, we often feel caught in tensions, like those faced by Jesus himself. Our life is a pilgrimage whose destiny lies beyond the horizons of this earth, in those heavenly places where Jesus has already gone “behind the veil”. We are asked to achieve what is beyond our unaided human ability. Each of us is a strange mixture of bonding with Jesus and embarrassment at his demands, or even at times just plain tedium about all religion. While close to our relatives and neighbours, yet we know deep in our heart the seeds of jealousy or resentment that still lie hidden.
It is helpful to recognize the tensions inherent in the life of faith. By faith we accept as real what we cannot prove nor see; we not only accept but even risk our all on the conviction that the goal of life lies beyond the present earthly existence. By faith we are challenged not to succumb to what is often taken for granted, in order to survive on earth. Must I presume that people are liars, that they are always hiding half the truth from me and using me for their own advantage? Faith directs us to a glimpse of Jesus, our high priest, “undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens.” Faith insists that our enthusiasm for the goodness of Jesus is not flimsy as the clouds racing across the sky. The enthusiasm of the crowd for Jesus is not a passing excitement. It is an echo of heaven, where people from all nations unite in turning with love and loyalty and gratitude to Jesus.
Tension and conflict bring about a deeper understanding of our complex lives, even a mature wisdom. The Scriptures advise us to look carefully. What we think is real may be only a passing shadow; what we think is strong and effective, like King Saul may only destroy itself. What we think is just the blind excitement of the crowd may be voicing the deepest everlasting instincts of faith. One day we will be with Jesus behind the veil and like Jesus we will be holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. Jesus, our God made human, functions always as our priest, so that our human nature be made like God’s. Jesus is our pledge that this will truly happen, when all the tensions of our life will be resolved.
First Reading: Hebrews 7:25-8:6
Jesus he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 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.
Gospel: Mark 3:7-12
Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.