17 January, 2017. Tuesday, Week 2

Saint Anthony, abbot

1st Reading: Hebrews 6:10-20

Abraham’s long-delayed son. Learning patience

For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

When God made a promise to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Human beings, of course, swear by someone greater than themselves, and an oath given as confirmation puts an end to all dispute. In the same way, when God desired to show even more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Gospel: Mark 2:23-28

Jesus says that sabbath was made for people, not people for sabbath

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the Bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”


Ministering life, or trying to dominate?

Today’s Epistle alerts us to the potential for of loving service present in the most ordinary events and everyday contacts, especially those of our own household. Routine matters and the people we meet each day can hold the key to our peace and holiness in God’s sight. Hebrews puts it inspiringly, “God will not forget your work and the love you have shown him by your service, past and present.” Our very personal God notices each action and each thought, so that in the eternal mind, even the hairs on our head are numbered!

The author also offers another encouraging image derived from the tradition of the decorative curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the general space in the Jerusalem temple. He says that Jesus our forerunner has already reached the goal of eternal life, for he has passed through the curtain into the Holy of Holies. If we continue faithfully we too will cross the threshold into paradise. In another text, this image is extended further. By his death, Jesus has rent apart this curtain so that all may have entry into the Holy of Holies. The most final even of life, our death, becomes the entry to full union with the divine.

Some life-quality questions are raised by today’s readings:
How much do I  actively invest to be of service of others, seeking peace and justice for them?
Am I appreciative of the life-potential in people who are handicapped, and show them proper respect?
Am I a person who ministers to life, delighting in all its expressions, dedicated to its preservation and handing on?

We are all only learners

The Pharisees criticized Jesus’ disciples for picking ears of corn on the Sabbath and eating them. As far as they were concerned, this was a form of work, and, so, was forbidden on the Sabbath. They were convinced that they understood what God expected of people on the Sabbath. In fact, they did not understand God’s will for the Sabbath. They saw themselves as experts, but in reality we are all learners and they had much to learn from Jesus’ vision of the Sabbath.

Yes, when it comes to the ways of God, the ways of the authentic morality, we are all only learners. The Lord always has much to teach us;continues to speak to us and to teach and enlighten us in and through his word. That is why we approach the Scriptures in a spirit of openness and humility. We come before the Word not as experts but as learners, inviting the Lord to enlighten us and to lead us further on our voyage of discovery towards the compete truth.

Saint Anthony, abbot

Anthony of Egypt (ca. 251-356) was an ascetic, considered as the first of the Desert Fathers. He went into the Libyan desert about 270 and his renunciation of the world was followed by many. The Life of Anthony, written by Athanasius of Alexandria (c.360) helped to spread the ideal of monasticism to Western Europe.

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