Jesus’ Forever Making Intercession for Us, 2nd Thursday (I), January 19, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Church of the Holy Family, Manhattan
Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
January 19, 2017
Heb 7:25-8:6, Ps 40, Mk 3:7-12


Today’s homily was not recorded. The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the Gospel we see the great attractiveness of the Lord Jesus on display. St. Mark tells us that such a large crowd of people were following Jesus that he needed to have a boat ready to push a little bit away from the shore so that the people wouldn’t crush him. They were coming from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, the Transjordan, Tyre and Sidon. For those who don’t know the geography of the Holy Land very well, those locations might just be names. But Galilee was in the north and Judea in the South of the Holy Land. Idumea was even further to the South. The Transjordan were pagan inhabited regions on the other side of the Jordan and Sea of Galilee. Tyre and Sidon were pagan cities way to the north along the Mediterranean. To get a sense of the message St. Mark was communicating it would be as if Jesus were here in Manhattan and that people were walking to see him from Maine, Connecticut and as far away as North Carolina, from Detroit and the Outer Long Island, and it wasn’t just Catholics coming but also atheists, secularists, and those of other religions. They were all pressing upon Jesus, who was curing and teaching. Even the demons couldn’t resist. When they saw him, they fell down before him — in other words, in adoration — and shouted “You are the Son of God.”
  • It’s key for us in hearing a passage like this for us to ask whether Jesus still has this power of attraction for others and for us. There are many today for whom Jesus has become a little like Abraham Lincoln, a revered figure of the past but not someone with whom one has a personal relationship. Many won’t even get into a car and drive to Church to spend time with him in adoration or to attend Mass on the Lord’s Day, not to mention walk for 100 miles to be close to Jesus at the shore. They say they believe in him, but what they mean is that they believe he existed, but they don’t really live by faith, committing themselves to him and being drawn fundamentally not by duty but by fascination, by love, by attraction. Many Catholics, including those who externally practice the faith, are by their own admission not really disciples, not really hungry learners and followers of the Lord. They might say some prayers but they never encounter the Lord in prayer. The spiritual life is a series of routines, perhaps, but there’s no real relationship formed. Those who are fascinated by Jesus will hunger for his word and become men and women whose lives are drenched by the daily dew of the Gospel. Those who are attracted by Jesus will come to him in adoration and say, with Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Those who truly believe in what Jesus has said and done and who love him will seek to come to meet him at Mass every day they can and in confession to say sorry as often as they sin. Those who take Jesus seriously will, in union with him, go out as Good Samaritans to care for a wounded world. Jesus has never lost his attractiveness. He’s as attractive today as ever. But many times our lives, our hearts, our minds, are so weighed down by so many worldly cares and anxieties, by so many lesser hopes, by so many false gods that we place first in our lives, that the type of wonder, fascination, love and attraction we’re supposed to have toward Jesus is extinguished partially or fully. Today is a great day to ponder anew the real person of Jesus who is alive in the Sacraments, who speaks to us in his Word and in prayer, who is present in his image in others, especially in the needy, and to make the effort — even the crazy effort of walking from our own Tyre or Idumea to the Sea of Galilee — to draw close to him.
  • When we do, we will find something really startling and beautiful about the Jesus we meet. The Letter to the Hebrews describes this at the beginning of today’s first reading. “Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.” When we approach Jesus, he saves us. His entire life is one of intercession for us and our salvation. He took our nature to intercede for us and take our place on death row. He intercedes for us still. He prays for us. He seeks to help and guide us. For me one of the most powerful sentences in the Gospel is when Jesus, after declaring that Satan desires to sift all of the apostles like wheat, says to St. Peter, “But I have prayed for you (singular), Peter, that your faith may not fail, but after you have converted, you will strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:31).  Jesus prayed for Peter personally and he let him know it. The same Jesus prays for us personally. The same Jesus intercedes for us personally. The same Jesus seeks to save each one of us and is willing to be crucified to do so. How can someone who loves us this much not be attractive!
  • But the way that Jesus wants to save us is not outside of us without our participation. He wants to save us through transforming us from within to unite ourselves with him. As we’ve been talking about in our journey through the Letter to the Hebrews, he wants to involve us in his own priesthood so that we can convert our entire life into a sacrifice of love for God and others. We see one of the high points of this priestly ministry and participative priestly union in a very important doctrinal part of today’s first reading. The Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus “has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself.” Many fundamentalist Protestants will attack Catholicism because they think we violate this passage. Jesus offered a sacrifice once and for all and we Catholics, they say, offer the sacrifice of the Mass, which we claim to be Jesus’ sacrifice from the Upper Room and Calvary, every single day. To them, this “proves” that our understanding of the Mass is flawed. But this is not, nor ever has been, the Church doctrine on the Mass. Catholics believe that Jesus offered his body and blood once and for all on Holy Thursday and Good Friday and that at Mass we enter into that one, eternal sacrifice. At today’s Mass, at yesterday’s, and at tomorrow’s, we will enter into the exact same sacrifice of Christ, offered once and for all. But at Mass we’re not just repeating exactly what we did yesterday? What changes from Mass to Mass? Something far more than the readings and some of the prayers! What changes is fundamentally the sacrifice we unite to Christ’s one eternal Sacrifice. Every Mass is different because of the offering we make in time together with Christ’s one eternal offering. At the offertory, the priest prays, “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.” This is a liturgical recollection of St. Paul’s words, “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1). We come to offer not just something but our very selves to God as a living, holy, pleasing, spiritual sacrifice to the Father, united to Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. We offer it as Christ’s Body united with the Head, as Christ’s Bride united in one flesh union with her Bridegroom. That’s what the Mass is, the offering of the whole Church together with Christ to the Father. Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t change, but ours does. And Christ is interceding for us today to do so in such a way that our sacrifice will lead us to salvation by incorporating us into his own saving intercession.
  • Today we don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to meet Jesus at a seashore. We haven’t come here from Tyre, Sidon, Jerusalem, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and all across Judea and Galilee. We’ve come from far closer, but the Lord is hoping to see the same interior willingness to climb over mountains and valleys to come to him and enter into his prayer and fasting. That’s what we do today. We press upon him. We draw near. And we ask his intercession for us to become his total cooperators as we rejoice in the fulfillment of that “more excellent ministry,” better covenant,” and “better promises.”

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Heb 7:25—8:6

Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him,
since he lives forever to make intercession for them.
It was fitting that we should have such a high priest:
holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners,
higher than the heavens.
He has no need, as did the high priests,
to offer sacrifice day after day,
first for his own sins and then for those of the people;
he did that once for all when he offered himself.
For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests,
but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law,
appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.
The main point of what has been said is this:
we have such a high priest,
who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne
of the Majesty in heaven, a minister of the sanctuary
and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up.
Now every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices;
thus the necessity for this one also to have something to offer.
If then he were on earth, he would not be a priest,
since there are those who offer gifts according to the law.
They worship in a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary,
as Moses was warned when he was about to erect the tabernacle.
For God says, “See that you make everything
according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”
Now he has obtained so much more excellent a ministry
as he is mediator of a better covenant,
enacted on better promises.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17

R. (8a and 9a) Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
May all who seek you
exult and be glad in you,
And may those who love your salvation
say ever, “The LORD be glorified.”
R. Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.

Alleluia See 2 Tm 1:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.
A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.
Hearing what he was doing,
a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem,
from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan,
and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.
He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd,
so that they would not crush him.
He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases
were pressing upon him to touch him.
And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him
and shout, “You are the Son of God.”
He warned them sternly not to make him known.