20Jan Jan. 20, 2017. Friday, Week 2

Saints Fabian and Sebastian, martyrs

1st Reading: Hebrews 8:6-13

Mediator of a new covenant

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. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.

God finds fault with them when he says: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” In speaking of “a new covenant,” he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.

Gospel: Mark 3:13-19

The twelve appointed apostles

Jesus went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.


The Call to the Covenant

As Jesus climbs the mountain to summon the twelve he wanted as leaders for his followers, it evokes story of Moses going up Mount Sinai to receive God’s law and covenant, (Exod 19). There, too, Moses was surrounded by colleagues as he pledged to keep the covenant. While our epistle writer sees the Mosaic covenant as obsolete, the early Christians clearly felt a link between the two covenants. The new covenant God made with the house of Israel does not mean that the Mosaic guidelines were obsolete, for they are often quoted in the Gospels.

What is obsolete in the old is not what it decrees but how we obey. The letter kills, the spirit gives life. We must seek to be conformed to the desires of God, not as slaves but as children, less for reward than as ways of expressing love and gratitude, not to make an edifying show but to maintain inner peace. Even the smallest demand of the law is fulfilled in essence when a Christian lives in that spirit, Matthew 5:18.The covenant is lived amid the vicissitudes of human life.

Jesus chose a mountain as the place to call those he had chosen. In Biblical times mountains were a favourite place for prayer and for building sanctuaries.  To find the energy of love to live the new covenant, we need to ascend the mountain, to a place for quiet prayer, to find our security in the Lord. So important is this for St Luke that he says Jesus spent the entire night in a prayer-vigil before choosing his twelve deputies. The mountain scene calls us to awareness of God’s presence in our lives, letting Him touch our hearts and inner motives. This can make our life feel like a new undertaking, new and vibrant with the presence of Jesus.

He calls us too

Early into his ministry Jesus sent out the twelve that he had chosen to share in his work. He sent them out to do what he has been doing, to preach the gospel and to heal the sick. Jesus understood that he needed the help of others to do the work he had been sent to do. He continues to need us today to do his work. We are to be his eyes, his ears, his hands, his feet and his voice. As risen Lord he wants to work in and through us.

St Paul understood this very clearly. He saw the church as the body of Christ in the world. For him, every member of Christ’s body has a vital role to play. The body of Christ could not be all that God wants it to be unless we all play the role we are called and equipped to play through  baptism. Each of us has a unique contribution to make to the life of the body and, thereby, to the Lord’s work in the world today. Each of us is indispensable and necessary. The first reading from Hebrews puts it positively: In the church everyone is a “first-born child” and a “citizen of heaven.” There are to be no second-class citizens in the church. Each of us is a vital member of Christ’s body uniquely graced by the Lord for his work and mission in the world. [MH]

Saint Fabian, pope and martyr

Fabian (c. 200-250) was bishop of Rome for 14 years to his death in the persecution by emperor Decius (250). He was noted as a peace-maker and resolved the schism caused by Pontian and Hippolytus.

Saint Sebastian, martyr

Sebastian from Milan (died c. 288) was a Roman soldier who refused to worship the emperor as a god, and was martyred during the persecution under emperor Diocletian. Sebastian was tied to a post and shot through with arrows, and later clubbed to death.

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