Memory of the Church

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Memorial of Don Andrea Santoro, a Roman priest killed in Trebizond, Turkey.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Hebrews 12, 18-19.21-24

What you have come to is nothing known to the senses: not a blazing fire, or gloom or total darkness, or a storm;

or trumpet-blast or the sound of a voice speaking which made everyone that heard it beg that no more should be said to them.

The whole scene was so terrible that Moses said, 'I am afraid and trembling.'

But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival,

with the whole Church of first-born sons, enrolled as citizens of heaven. You have come to God himself, the supreme Judge, and to the spirits of the upright who have been made perfect;

and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to purifying blood which pleads more insistently than Abel's.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This letter warns Christians not to endanger their faith; the condemnation they will receive will be far worse than what the unfaithful Israelites endured in the desert. They were excused because their revelation came in a much more frightening manner than the serene and loftier one that Christians received. The revelation from Sinai was a terrifying event in the midst of fire, wind, earthquakes and the sound of trumpets such that even Moses said “I tremble with fear” (12:21). The author deliberately describes the revelation on Sinai with intense, strong words; he does not even name God and omits mentioning the high moral code of the Decalogue. Even less does he talk about the nearness of God that Moses was able to enjoy. The Letter seeks to highlight the difference between the revelation the Christians received from that on Mount Sinai, and therefore describes it in a completely different way: “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” (12:22). In such a festive and peaceful scene, the new alliance is fulfilled through a voice that comes from Heaven: it is God’s voice that, at the Last Judgment, will shake heaven and earth in order to make room for the “unshakeable” Reign of God which will in turn replace the already shaken, visible creation. The end of the chapter sounds like an admonition to Christians to remain faithful to the new alliance and to listen to God’s voice instead of their own. The faithful must pay great heed to the message and not “refuse the one who is speaking.” For if they do, their punishment will be far more bitter than the one the Israelites received. Although the new alliance is not yet completely fulfilled, it is already -present through “an acceptable worship” to God (12:28). The Kingdom we are waiting for is already made present through the Holy Liturgy. This is what awaits those who draw closer in faith. On the contrary a definitive condemnation awaits those who pull away. For believers, the great eschatological transformation has already come about, and they should not look back nostalgically at the past. If they do, then they themselves risk becoming part of what is already past.