05Feb Saturday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Hebrews 13:15ff. God raised up the great Shepherd of the sheep from the dead.May he enable you to do his will.

Mark 6:30ff. Jesus invites the apostles to come aside and rest, though he pities the people, as sheep without a shepherd.

Consistency between Prayer and Life

The theme of peace in today’s readings is suitable for Saturday, the sabbath, an ancient Hebrew word that itself means to stop, to rest, to take a holiday. This is the day that God blessed and made holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation (Gen 2:3). Earlier in Hebrews heaven was called by the name of sabbath: the sabbath rest that lies ahead for the people of God. And the one who enters into God’s rest, relaxes from own work as God did after the work of creation. We must strive to enter in that rest (Hebrews 4:9-11).

For an explanation of what is the best and most acceptable sacrifice, we can turn to today’s reading from Hebrews: “Do not neglect good deeds and generosity; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind.” This fits in with another line in Hebrews, just a few verses earlier: “Jesus died outside the gate… Let us go to him outside the camp, bearing the insult which he bore” (Hebrews 13:12-13). We are advised to seek Jesus “outside the camp” where the outcast, the lepers and the unclean cluster. With these Jesus was crucified as a common criminal. “Outside” is at a distance from the sacred temple and the ritual sacrifices which were “inside.”

Peace with God means that we go out to the poor and needy and thereby be able to transform our prayers and ritual into a worthy sacrifice of praise. It also requires a good relationship between ourselves and our leaders, both in civil society and in the church, “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” This admonition must not extend to obeying even to the point of committing sin, but we “submit to them” by putting the common good before private desires or selfish whims and personal ambition. The peaceful relationship here should bring “joy, not… sorrow, for that would be harmful to you.”

To seek first the kingdom of God, that is, the common good of the community, requires some time spent in prayer. Such times are necessary – as Jesus remarked to the disciples, “Come apart and rest a little.” The peace which we are seeking is not a human creation; it is God’s special gift. Yet, even Our Lord’s solitude was invaded by the people who “hastened on foot to the place.” When Jesus the crowd, he pitied them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd and “he began to teach them at great length.” How well he fulfills the injunction of Hebrews to go to those outside the camp, to those wandering and in need. Jesus leaves behind the solitude and the sacred, to find the word of God while mingling with the crowd. Peace means the integral harmony of all these aspects of our life, centred in the mystery of God’s presence with us.

First Reading: Hebrews 13:15-17, 20-21

Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing – for that would be harmful to you.

Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel: Mark 6:30-34

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

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