28Jan 28 January. Monday of Week 3

1st Reading: Hebrews 9:15, 24-28

Jesus as the mediator of a new covenant

For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (R./)

Responsorial: Psalm 97:1-6

Response: Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous deeds.

Sing a new song to the Lord
for he has worked wonders.
His right hand and his holy arm
have brought salvation. (R./)

The Lord has made known his salvation;
and shown his justice to the nations.
He has remembered his truth and love
for the house of Israel. (R./)

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout to the Lord all the earth,
ring out your joy. (R./)

Sing psalms to the Lord with the harp
with the sound of music.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
acclaim the King, the Lord. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 3:22-30

If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said about Jesus, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But nobody can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”


The high cost of unity

Unity, its cost and its reward, is the central in today’s readings — very suitably, in light of the Octave for Christian Unity. According to Hebrews, Jesus unites and finalizes all the temple sacrifices, even the yearly Yom Kippur ceremony, by his one sacrifice on Calvary and his return to the right hand of the heavenly Father. As we read in Second Samuel, David creates a single kingdom out of the rival and jealous groups, the people of southern Judah and those of northern Israel. Finally, Jesus summarizes our thinking in a very practical way, “A household, divided according to loyalties, cannot survive.” The high cost of unity is particularly evident in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Through the blood of Jesus, poured out on the cross, we are united as one single community of faith and united with God in the heavenly Holy of Holies. Today’s reading returns several times to the subject of death and of blood.

In the gospel Jesus puts the cost of unity in terms of loyalty to the Holy Spirit and an unswerving rejection of Satan. In fact, Jesus solemnly warns of the one sin which “will never be forgiven,” namely blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Those who sin against the Spirit will “carry the guilt of their sin without end.” Persons who sin against the light, blinding themselves to the evident goodness of others, ascribing the good deeds of others to unworthy motives, closing their heart to the call for compassion and forgiveness — such persons close themselves to the presence of the Holy Spirit. In other words, then, there must be a unity and integral wholeness about ourselves: our intellect united with our eyes that see the goodness in others; our intellect united with our memory and so arriving at the solid wisdom of good experience; our intellect united with our flesh and blood and so judging with sympathy and compassion, able to forgive others.

There cannot be a bond of union and trust in a family, community, church or nation, unless each individual first strives to be peacefully united within the complexity of one’s character. We must be possessed by the Holy Spirit and through this Spirit find our inner peace, our sincere and kindly awakening to the world around us. We will not attribute the good deeds of others to Satan even if their actions threaten us in some way and seem difficult to harmonize with some of our own ideas. Once we have achieved inner peace and unity in the Holy Spirit, we are disposed to reach outward and strive for peace and unity in the local world of our family and neighbourhood, and to support good causes that work for peace in the larger world of Church and among nations. Our union with others should reach into the roots of our existence, our bone and our flesh, where no person is better or different than another person. Secondly, union cannot be just for one’s selfish advantage but for the common good and shared happiness of all.

From Hebrews we learn that all Christian attempts at unity must be founded, renewed and sustained in Jesus, the “mediator of a new covenant.” Jesus died that we may be united as brothers and sisters in the same family. The blood of Jesus becomes the vital element circulating in the veins in all of us, that brings us into a living bond with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. In fulfillment of the symbolism of Yom Kippur, when the high priest sprinkled blood toward the Holy of Holies, the blood of our High Priest Jesus now flows between us and the Father. In the mystery of this divine life, we become one family, all of us. As in a family, blood is thicker than water and holds its own secrets of love and reconciliation. In the blood of Jesus, by which we are drawn into the Holy of Holies and united with God, there are secrets which we will never understand on earth. Through Jesus we can learn to trust the most basic instincts of life and unity and reach out to our neighbour who is our bone and our flesh.


CANDLE

St Thomas Aquinas, Priest, Doctor of the Church

Born near Aquino (Italy) about 1225; died on his way to the Council of Lyons in 1274. Educated at Monte Cassino, Naples, Paris, and Cologne, he became a Dominican in 1244. Regarded as one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church. Despite ecclesiastical opposition at the time, the substance of his life’s work has endured as an authentic exposition of Christian teaching and carries unique official approval. Noted for his modesty, the prayerfulness of his personal life, and the abiding influence of his thought.


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