31 January. Thursday of Week 3
1st Reading, Hebrews 10:19-25
We enter the Holy of Holies by the new and living path Jesus has opened for us
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (R./)
Responsorial: Psalm 23:1-6
Response: Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness,
the world and all its peoples.
It is he who set it on the seas;
on the waters he made it firm. (R./)
Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?
Who shall stand in his holy place?
The man with clean hands and pure heart,
who desires not worthless things. (R./)
He shall receive blessings from the Lord
and reward from the God who saves him.
Such are the men who seek him,
seek the face of the God of Jacob. (R./)
Gospel: Mark 4:21-25
The contrast between those who have and the have-nots
Jesus said to those who were with him, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen.”
And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
Passing through the veil
The life-path Jesus leads us on goes via the cross and on to the heavenly sanctuary. Behind this Hebrews text lies the Old Testament ritual of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when once a year the high priest entered behind the veil into the Holy of Holies. There, amid a smoking cloud of incense, he sprinkled blood towards the place of the Ark of the Covenant. This signified the people’s purification by a flow of new blood, new life, between them and God. This ceremony took on new, poignant meaning on Calvary. Jesus is the high priest, the blood is his own precious blood, the cross is both altar and the place of the Ark. With a slight shift of symbolism, common enough in the Bible, the veil guarding the Holy of Holies is the flesh of Jesus. Both were torn open when Jesus died on the cross. When Jesus “gave up his spirit, suddenly the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom”, (Mt 27:50-51.)
At the eucharistic table, the lamp is no longer hidden under a basket, and we see new meaning in our lives, particularly when times are difficult. The Eucharist is the tabernacle of God’s special presence with us. If we have this kind of faith, then “to those who have will more be given.” If we do not have this faith, then “what little they have will be taken away” and be lost in a n ultimately meaningless life.
If we give in full measure we will “receive, and more besides.” By uniting our lives with the death of Jesus, the lamp is taken from beneath the bushel basket and placed on a lampstand. To extent this figure of speech in the light of Hebrews, the lamp is placed on its stand in the Holy of Holies and we see the wonderful mystery of God’s love in the torn veil, the sacrificed body of Jesus, and experience a new flow of life and at-one-ment with God.
Take notice of what he says
We need to listen carefully to what he says, “Whoever has ears to hear, listen to this. Take notice of what you are hearing.” We hear many things but we do not always pay attention to or take notice of what we hear. Just as there is often more to someone than meets the eye, so there can be more to what someone says than meets the ear. When we listen attentively we can often hear the more in what someone says that may not be immediately.
What applies to our ordinary conversations applies even more when the Lord’s word is spoken. There is always more to the word of the Lord than first meets the ear. Jesus declares in the gospel that the more carefully we listen, the more we will receive, “the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given, and more besides.” The riches contained within the Lord’s word are plentiful and he is generous with them, but it is our generosity, our generous and attentive listening, that allows those riches to be released into our lives.