26 Jan. Thursday of Week Three
Also: Saints Timothy & Titus
2 Samuel 7:18ff. David prays gratefully for the everlasting promises made to his descendants.
Mark 4:21ff. To those who have more will be given; from the have-nots, the little they have will be taken away.
A promise surprisingly fulfilled
The new and living path which Jesus has opened up for us leads to the cross and through this to the heavenly sanctuary. The larger context of this Hebrews text is the Old Testament ritual of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when the high priest entered, this one time of all the year, behind the veil into the Holy of Holies. There, in a smoking cloud of incense, he sprinkled blood towards the place of the Ark of the Covenant (the Ark itself had been missing since the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.). The ceremony signified the people’s purification by a flow of new blood – new life – between them and God. This ceremony takes on a new, poignant meaning on Calvary. Jesus is the high priest, the blood is his own precious blood, the cross is both altar and the place of the Ark. With a slight shift of symbolism, common enough in the Bible, the veil guarding the Holy of Holies is the flesh of Jesus. Both were torn open when Jesus died on the cross. When Jesus “gave up his spirit, suddenly the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:50-51).
Through Jesus’ example and the words of Scripture, the lamp is no longer hidden under a basket, and we see new meaning in our daily actions, particularly in those which are difficult. These enable us to complete the ritual of at-one-ment, as if our own blood were flowing towards the place of the Ark, the cross, the eucharistic table, the tabernacle of God’s special presence. If we have this kind of faith and dedication, then “to those who have, more will be given.” If we do not have this kind of faith, then “what little they have will be taken away” and be lost in meaningless exhaustion.
From this background we can approach David’s prayer thanking God for the everlasting promises of royalty confided to his family. Little did he realize that these promises would truly become permanent in their deepest meaning when Jesus through death re-entered the Holy of Holies to take his place at the right hand of the Father. In a way that could not have been understood at the time – when the fall of Jerusalem six centuries earlier seemed to deny God’s promises – new meaning comes by the Gospel words: “Listen carefully to what you hear. In the measure you give you shall receive.”
Only by giving in full measure – giving up one’s imperfect interpretation of divine promises yet continuing in the faith that God is straightening the crooked lines of history and of life – will we “receive, and more besides.” By uniting our sense of fulfillment with the death of Jesus, the lamp is taken from underneath the bushel basket and placed on a stand. If we can apply the figure of speech according to the symbolism of Hebrews, the lamp is placed on a stand in the Holy of Holies and we see the wonderful mystery of God’s love in the torn body/veil of Jesus and we experience a new flow of life in our one blood and at-one-ment.
2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29
Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God; you have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come. May this be instruction for the people, O Lord God! And you established your people Israel for yourself to be your people forever; and you, O Lord, became their God. And now, O Lord God, as for the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, confirm it forever; do as you have promised. Thus your name will be magnified forever in the saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is God over Israel’; and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant; now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.”
Gospel: Mark 4:21-25
He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”