Anchoring Ourselves in Jesus Beyond the Veil, Second Tuesday (I), January 20, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of SS. Sebastian and Fabian, Martyrs
January 20, 2015
Heb 6:10-20, Ps 111, Mk 2:23-28

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today the Letter to the Hebrews has us focus on the reasons for perseverance in our faith. Up until now, the Letter has been helping us to ponder how we’re called to hear with obedient rather than hardened hearts God the Father’s Definitive Word (Jesus) as he communicates to us in word and witness how God wishes to lead us through suffering and death to perfection and glory. At a time of persecution however in which the early Christians would be hearing the Letter, the author calls them to soldier on: “We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.” Those who have inherited the promises through faith and patience are the martyrs, like Saints Fabian and Sebastian whom the Church celebrates today, and we’re called to be as eager as they are for the fulfillment of all the hopes Christ himself has announced. There’s a temptation to become sluggish, to get weighed down by the concerns of this world and to begin to downplay the enthusiasm we should have for what God is promising to those who persevere.
  • The motivation for that hope is the commitment Jesus has made to us in the New and Eternal Covenant. The Letter to the Hebrews makes an analogy to the Covenant God made with Abraham, saying that “after patient waiting, Abraham obtained the promise.” Abraham needed to wait for the fulfillment of the promise of land. He needed to wait 25 years for the promise that he would become a father. He’d need to wait even longer until he would become the father of many nations. But he waited patiently. He waited eagerly. And God fulfilled his promise. To help Abraham believe, God made a Covenant with him and Abraham had faith in the Covenant. The Letter to the Hebrews alludes to the Covenant God made with Moses to help all the Jews and to the Covenant Jesus made with us to help all of us. “When God wanted to give the heirs of his promise an even clearer demonstration of the immutability of his purpose, he intervened with an oath, so that … we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us.” That oath was the new and eternal Covenant in Jesus’ blood. Jesus’ Resurrection in a sense verified that Covenant and Jesus has entered into the Holy of Holies in Heaven praying for us to receive the fulfillment of that promise.
  • In a striking and unforgettable image, the Letter says that the Covenant sealed in Jesus “we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil, where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner, becoming high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” We know how important anchors are for boats in stormy harbors. It’s what keep them from being overturned or just drifting out to sea. The Covenant for us is like that Anchor, our hope in Jesus and his promises are like that Anchor, cast beyond the clouds, cast into the Holy of Holies of Heaven, preventing not only our spiritual capsizing but keeping us tethered to the promise. Jesus’ Covenantal promise is what helps us not to become sluggish but to continue with the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end.
  • Jesus gives us an image of his piercing through the veil in today’s Gospel. When the Pharisees were objecting that they were picking the heads of grain to get something to eat on the Sabbath, when they weren’t supposed to do any work even shucking the grains, Jesus reminded them that when David and his soldiers were hungry, he went into the Holies of the House of God and ate the show bread that was destined exclusively for the priests after its period in the temple. King David grasped, and Jesus evidently approved, that some things like God’s servants starving were more important that ritual symbolism. Jesus communicated that the Sabbath was made not to enslave or starve man but to serve him. Likewise, the Son of David, Jesus, is taking all of us not just into the Holies but into the Holy of Holies provided that we have the “hunger” for it and it’s there that he seeks to give us far more than show bread but the eternal wedding banquet. Jesus is the forerunner going before us on earth, leading us across the veil.
  • Pope Saint Fabian and Saint Sebastian were two who never became weary in seeking eagerly the fulfillment of their Christian hope. Theirs was a hope that strengthened them to persevere faithfully to our end of the Covenant even when they were being threatened with torture and death. They’re interceding for us today that we might do the same. Today Jesus enters with us into the sanctuary where he gives us himself in response to our deepest hungers. He seeks to Anchor our hope and our life here to the altar, to keep us connected to him in the midst of the seas of life. We have that type of high priest who has made us heirs of his promise, a promise on which he now gives to us himself as the down payment. This convinces us never to become weary, because as we prayed in the Psalm, the Lord remembers his Covenant forever!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 HEB 6:10-20

Brothers and sisters:
God is not unjust so as to overlook your work
and the love you have demonstrated for his name
by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones.
We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness
for the fulfillment of hope until the end,
so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who,
through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.
When God made the promise to Abraham,
since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself,
and said, I will indeed bless you and multiply you.
And so, after patient waiting, Abraham obtained the promise.
Now, men swear by someone greater than themselves;
for them an oath serves as a guarantee
and puts an end to all argument.
So when God wanted to give the heirs of his promise
an even clearer demonstration of the immutability of his purpose,
he intervened with an oath,
so that by two immutable things,
in which it was impossible for God to lie,
we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged
to hold fast to the hope that lies before us.
This we have as an anchor of the soul,
sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil,
where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner,
becoming high priest forever
according to the order of Melchizedek.

Responsorial Psalm PS 111:1-2, 4-5, 9 AND 10C

R. (5) The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the LORD,
exquisite in all their delights.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has won renown for his wondrous deeds;
gracious and merciful is the LORD.
He has given food to those who fear him;
he will forever be mindful of his covenant.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has sent deliverance to his people;
he has ratified his covenant forever;
holy and awesome is his name.
His praise endures forever.
R. The Lord will remember his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia SEE EPH 1:17-18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to our call.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 2:23-28

As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath,
his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain.
At this the Pharisees said to him,
“Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?”
He said to them,
“Have you never read what David did
when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry?
How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest
and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat,
and shared it with his companions?”
Then he said to them,
“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.
That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”