Thursday of 1st Week of the Year, January 14, 2021

The Letter to the Hebrews was written to Jewish converts to Christianity who suffered much on account of their faith. On account of persecutions from the Jews, many of them had fled from their home country Palestine, to live among pagans. They felt insecure and threatened as “displaced persons”; hence, they were in danger, like their ancestors in the desert, of grumbling, contesting God, perhaps giving up their faith. Today they are told: “Do not harden your hearts, but keep trusting and listening to God.” Are these not fitting words today to a Church in transition, a Church that is unsettled?
There is the story of the father whose child had been born badly deformed. He was disheartened and could not love it. But one day he said: “If I can only kiss and touch it, then I can completely accept it.” And that is what he did. Jesus did not only heal the leper but he touched him, showing that he loved and accepted the man completely.
Opening Prayer
God, our Father, you let your Son Jesus Christ, share the lot of outcasts and bear the sufferings of all. Let us become like him, so that among us no one stays an outcast, no sin remains unforgivable, no misery is a cause for rejection. Make us with your Son, people who lift up the despised with words of welcome and deeds of encouragement.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen!
1 Reading: Hebrews 3:7-14
The Holy Spirit says: Oh, that today you would hear his voice, “Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion in the day of testing in the desert, where your ancestors tested and tried me and saw my works for forty years. Because of this I was provoked with that generation and I said, ‘They have always been of erring heart, and they do not know my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter into my rest.'” Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God. Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,” so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin. We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 95:6-7c, 8-9, 10-11
R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides. R.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice: “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, Where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works.” R.
Forty years I was wearied of that generation; I said: “This people’s heart goes astray, they do not know my ways.” Therefore I swore in my anger: “They shall never enter my rest.” R.
Alleluia: Matthew 4:23
Alleluia, alleluia. Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom and cured every disease among the people. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Mark 1:40-45
A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
We live in the moment of the great “today.” It is the “today” of God’s ultimate word to the world, the age of God’s Son, Jesus. Every day of our life is a moment of grace. Israel’s great “today” saw its people falter. Instead of being faithful to God during their desert sojourn, they revolted against him, for which they paid the penalty of not entering the Promised Land.
We are indeed blessed, but we often lose sight of the fact that we are living in the promised times. Nothing will ever exceed the gift of God that is his Son. We are blessed to be part of the great “today.” We know that the gospel calls us to live honestly and uprightly in this world. Yet we see so much deceit and deception in our times. We know that every human life is sacred, and yet abortion on demand is a given in modern society. War continues with people dying for causes that remain blurred. It is easy for our hearts to harden and become insensitive.
Jesus performs a cure in today’s Gospel and then enjoins silence on the beneficiary. But the beneficiary does just the oppo­site. He has received a great favour and been asked to remain silent. The cure becomes public at every turn.
As we live in the great “today,” the psalmist asks us not to harden our hearts. Rather let us live a life of gratitude and open­ness to God. Let us walk a narrow line and avoid selfishness and licentiousness. We are now partners of Christ as long as we retain that confidence with which we began.
– With all those who seek pardon and reconciliation, we cry out to you, Lord. With all who have found forgiveness, we praise you Lord:
– With all who wail day and night in their loneliness and misery, we cry out to you Lord. With all those who have found friends to help, we praise you Lord:
– With all who hide their suffering, we cry to you, Lord. With all who share with others and uplift them, we praise you, Lord:
Prayer over the Gifts
Merciful Father, with bread and wine we remember how you raised us up above our guilt and fears and our isolation.
Dispose us to share with all your joy, your acceptance, and affection on account of him who shared our poverty and made himself weak and humble with us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
Loving, merciful Father, at the table of your Son, we have learned to be present to one another as he has been present among us here with a love that is discreet and reviving like a breath of fresh air. On account of him, who has taken away the hardness of our hearts, dispose us to share our riches and our poverty, to receive one another and from each other and to touch one another with our love. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen!
How very happy our community would be if we could fully accept one another just as we are, without condemning, without judging or begrudging, without looking down on anyone, without trying to create one another into our own image and likeness. Let us build up one another with the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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