Thursday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 12:18ff. In Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the blood of Jesus, outpoured in sacrifice, establishes the new covenant.
Mark 6:7ff. Jesus sends out the twelve, two by two, to preach, anoint the sick, and work many cures.
“Remain faithful to me with whole heart and with whole soul.” Loyalty to our friends as well as to our community and church demands courage and generosity. Courage does not mean that each moment is fraught with tension and worry; nor does it turn life into a continuous battle. Once our house is built on rock, once our loyalties are well directed, once there is an integral wholeness about ourselves, then our life settles down with a peaceful and relaxed spirit.
Hebrews reinforces our sense of integrity about ourselves and our family and community. It speaks of “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.” This rich phrase “new covenant” resonates some of the most beautiful texts in the Bible. Think of Deut 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel. The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” The new covenant was sealed in the blood of Jesus, not with the mere blood of animals as on Mount Sinai. It is the very blood of Jesus himself that, as it were, now flows through our veins, and unites us in a living relationship with him, and through Jesus with the Godhead. Like the blood of Abel, this blood cries out from the earth, from Calvary, begging not for vengeance but for mercy. Through forgiveness and compassion God will be just and fulfill every divine promise.
Life in such abundance cannot be selfish and must be shared. Though written on the heart, it asks us to reach out to the neighbour whom we are to love equally as ourselves. These two commandments, love of God and love of neighbour, are the basis of all the commandments, the source of stability and integral wholeness. Therefore, Jesus sent his disciples two by two, to preach, to anoint, to work miracles, to expel demons. What they have received from Jesus must become the property of all men and women. What they share is given so freely that they move onward, without food, without traveling bag, without coins in the purse. Sandals are allowed, so that they can move all the more quickly in their mission of sharing the good news of Jesus.
First Reading: Hebrews 12:18-19, 21-24
You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Gospel: Mark 6:7-13
He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.