23rd January. Friday in Week 2

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 And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.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 goes up the mountain to summon the twelve he chose as leaders for his followers, it evokes memories of Moses who went up Mount Sinai to receive God’s law and covenant, Exod 19. There, too, Moses pledged the covenant, surrounded by colleagues. Even though our epistle writer sees the first covenant as obsolete, the early Christians felt a link between the two covenants. Reference to God making a new covenant with the house of Israel does not mean that the Mosaic guidelines had lost all meaning, for they are often quoted in the Gospels.

What is obsolete in the old is not what it says but how we obey. The letter kills, the spirit gives life. We must seek to be conformed to the least desire of God, not as slaves but as children, not for seeking reward as much as for expressing love and gratitude, not for external show but for 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 went up the mountain and calle those whom he had chosen. In Biblical times mountains were a favourable place for prayer and for locating sanctuaries. Here is an excellent example of combining the external symbols of strength with the interior spirit of love. To find the energy of love for living the new covenant, we need to ascend the mountain–to value quiet prayer, to find our one security in the Lord. So important is this that Luke notes how Jesus spent the entire night in a prayer-vigil before choosing the twelve. The mountain scene calls us to awareness of God’s presence in our lives, letting Him touch our hearts and interior motivation. This can make our old life into a new undertaking, our old covenant 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. Paul understood this very clearly. He understood the church to be the body of Christ in the world. He was very clear that every member of Christ’s body had a vital role to play. The body of Christ could not be all Christ wants it to be unless everyone plays the role they are called and equipped to play through their baptism. Each one of us has a unique contribution to make to the life of the body and, thereby, to the work of the Lord in the world today. Each one of us is indispensible and necessary. The first reading from the letter to the Hebrews puts it very simply. 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.. [Martin Hogan]

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