Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(for the Liturgical Year 2021)

February 4, 2021
Thursday | Week 4 in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Hebrews 12:18-19, 21-24

The sacrificial blood of Jesus opens up a new Covenant

You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I tremble with fear." But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Responsorial: Psalm 47:2-4, 9-11

R./: God, in your temple, we ponder your love

The Lord is great and worthy to be praised
 in the city of our God.
His holy mountain rises in beauty,
 the joy of all the earth. (R./)

Mount Zion, true pole of the earth,
 the Great King's city.
God, in the midst of its citadels,
 has shown himself its stronghold. (R./)

As we have heard, so we have seen
 in the city of our God,
 in the city of the Lord of hosts
 which God upholds for ever. (R./)

O God, we ponder your love within your temple.
Your praise, O God, like your name
 reaches to the ends of the earth.
With justice your right hand is filled. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 6:7-13

Jesus sends out the twelve in pairs, to preach, anoint and heal

Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Messengers of Faith

Jesus chose twelve men (their names are listed several times, though with some inconsistencies in the names listed (Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19-19; Lk 6:14-16; Ac 1:13). Mark tells us that he named them "apostles" (Mk 3:13) and it is clear that special significance was seen in the number twelve, since they are often referred to later as simply "the twelve" (Mt 20:17; 26:14. 20.27; Mk 4:10; 9:35; 10:32; Jn 6:67-71 etc) and when Judas Iscariot dropped out of their number, another had to be chosen in his place, to fill up that sacred number (Ac 1:20ff). St. Peter declared that one of the group who were present during the public ministry of the Lord Jesus "must become a witness with us to his resurrection." Filling the place of Judas would fulfil a prophesy, and amalgam drawn from Psalm 69:25 ("let there be nobody to dwell in their tents") and Psalm 109:8 ("may another take his place of leadership"), but the main reason for bringing the number back up to twelve seems to be that it mirrored the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt 19:28; Lk 22:3). They were clearly to be the leaders of the new community formed by the followers of Jesus.

Over the subsequent centuries the idea of church leadership as apostolic succession has taken various forms, most especially in the episcopate, with the bishops seen as ordained successors to the Twelve. The formal episcopal functions of teaching, ruling and sanctifying are therefore linked in some direct way to the choice of the apostles. But while this structural interpretation is in some sense a valid development, it would surely be wrong to forget what was the original task entrusted to the apostles according to Mark, the earliest of our Gospels and the one most redolent of the living memory of St. Peter who (according to bishop Papias) was Mark’s patron and mentor in Rome. They were to travel around in frugal simplicity as messengers of the Kingdom of Heaven, with words of repentance and of hope and healing, and to preach a message of peace. This would be the kind of apostleship on which bishops should often reflect, along with St. Peter’s own added reflection: each bishop must be with us a "witness to the resurrection of Jesus."

Inspired and encouraged by such a renewed sense of apostolic mission on the part of our church leaders we might resonate to the bright vision of the church sketched in Hebrews, as Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, .. the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and be gathered around Jesus, mediator of a new covenant, the One who determines our identity as children of God.

His work goes on

Mark shows how 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. Jesus still needs us today to do his work. We are to be his eyes, his ears, his hands, his feet and his voice, his presence wherever we are. He wants to work in and through us.

St Paul understood this very clearly. He saw the church as the body of Christ in the world.  The body of Christ could not be fully functioning unless everyone plays the role they are called and equipped to play through their baptism. Each 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 is indispensable and necessary. The 1st reading from the letter to the Hebrews puts it very simply. In the church everyone is a "firstborn child" and a "citizen of heaven." There are to be no 2nd 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.