Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Hebrews 1:1-6 + Mark 1:14-20
January 14, 2019
“This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
Today is a day of beginnings. Today as we begin the season of Ordinary Time we hear from the beginning of the Gospel account of Saint Mark. It points us in the direction of God the Father.
Christ sustains all things by his powerful word, whether those things recognize the source of that power or not. But for those who recognize Christ as the Son of God, He does infinitely more. For those who are willing to abandon everything in this world—even the earthly fathers who reared them—Christ confers the gift of everlasting life, to be sustained in the life of God the Father forever.
Such men are the apostles Andrew and Simon, James and John. They leave everything to go off in Jesus’ company, having received a commission from Him to become “fishers of men.” They are called to share in the life of Christ, and at this point, they have no idea what this will entail. This is how beginnings always are: we have no real idea of what is going to transpire in the future. If these four men had known that each of them would share deeply in the suffering of Christ—three of them, through martyrdom, and Saint John, at the foot of the Cross—it is unlikely they ever would have left their boats.
At the beginning of this season of Ordinary Time, let us pray for the grace to be faithful to the calling which we entered into through Baptism.
Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Hebrews 2:5-12 + Mark 1:21-28
January 15, 2019
“What is this? A new teaching with authority.”
Twice in today’s Gospel passage we hear the word “authority”, both times applied to Jesus. In both cases, astonishment or surprise is evoked by the fact that Jesus teaches with authority. Why is there this astonishment, and what does it mean for Jesus to teach with authority?
In the culture that surrounds us, every person believes himself to be his own authority. In effect, this wide-spread belief means that no real authority exists. In our society there is a great need for clarity about the meaning and purpose of authority.
At its most literal level, the word “authority” comes from the word “author”. The author of a novel can create worlds of his own design from his imagination. Laws of physics need not apply. Strange creatures can exist, and fantastic events are commonplace. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll and C. S. Lewis are all authors in this sense. They have the authority to create worlds and races of creatures, and to confer life on and take life from individuals. However, this is merely a fictional form of authority. In reality, there is only one Author of creation.
Jesus, as God from God and Light from Light, is this divine Author. Through His divinity He has authority. He exercises this authority throughout the three years of His public ministry for various persons, and for all mankind on Calvary. However, in the face of His exercise of divine authority, astonishment arises for varied reasons.
Most cannot believe that a mere man could exercise divine authority. Jesus, of course, was not merely a man, even though He was fully so. In our own lives, we should not be astonished by the authority or power of Jesus. We should root our daily lives in His desire to grant us His grace.
Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Hebrews 2:14-18 + Mark 1:29-39
January 16, 2019
Rising very early before dawn, He left and went off to a deserted place, where He prayed.
In the light of Simon’s pursuit of Jesus and his informing Jesus that “everyone” is looking for Him, two actions of Jesus stand out. Both actions show the falsity of Simon’s claim.
The fact that this passage begins with the cure of Simon’s mother-in-law gives us a glimpse into Simon’s way of thinking. As more persons are cured, and as word spreads, Simon is convinced that “everyone” is looking for Jesus.
But “rising very early before dawn,” Jesus prayed in a deserted place. In that “desert” He entered into communion with His Father. To Jesus, His Father is primary in an ultimate manner. His Father comes before the crowds that Simon calls “everyone”.
When Simon makes his claim to Jesus, He responds by explaining the need to “go on to the nearby villages”. Simon is parochial in his thinking, while Jesus wants no one excluded. At this point in His public ministry, Jesus is preaching and healing “throughout the whole of Galilee.” As those three years continue, the effects of His ministry spread out in waves. Ultimately, His ministry culminates in His self-sacrifice on Calvary, which He makes for all mankind throughout all of human history. This is the “everyone” whom Jesus was sent by His Father to serve.
St. Anthony, Abbot
Hebrews 3:7-14 + Mark 1:40-45
January 17, 2019
…it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
In today’s Gospel, we hear that Jesus “remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.” Jesus’ “retreat” is not that of a hermit. Jesus’ frequent journeys to deserted places was a prudent distancing of himself from those He came into this world to serve. Jesus wanted at times simply to be in prayerful communion with His Father.
At the same time, perhaps Jesus knew that the people He was sent to serve needed a “breather”. It’s hard for us to imagine what it was like to hear the Word of God preach the Good News, or work stupendous miracles. We may imagine that because we’ve seen movies portraying such events, that we have an idea what it was like for those first-century folk. If so, we underestimate the power of the Word of God made Flesh, and overestimate the power of cinema.
Often implicitly, and sometimes directly, Jesus says that the crowds are misunderstanding Him, even praising Him for the wrong reasons. Some distance between Him and them, then, was prudent so that the crowds might reflect in their minds and hearts on the mysteries of Christ. Of course, in the end, the crowds called for His death: “Crucify him! Crucify him!” We have cried the same by our sins. But in the desert of Calvary, Christ offered His life so that throughout all ages to come, people might keep coming to Him from everywhere.
Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Hebrews 4:1-5,11 + Mark 2:1-12
January 18, 2019
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them….
In today’s Gospel passage Jesus has many followers. “Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them”. This might seem to make Jesus a popular person, successful in ministry. But within today’s Gospel passage there is a confusion of aims. The aim of the friends of the paralytic was his physical healing. Jesus does not dismiss their search, but he sub-ordinates it to a higher aim: the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus could have spent His earthly life working physical cures and raising people from the dead. Had he stuck to these aims alone, He would have remained popular. There’s no telling how successful He might have become in the eyes of the world!
But it was not for fifteen minutes of fame that He came into our world of sin and death. It was to die that He dwelt among us. Give thanks that Jesus shows us how to put our mission above popularity, and how to put the aim of death before that of earthly life.
Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Hebrews 4:12-16 + Mark 2:13-17
January 19, 2019
As He passed by, He saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post.
In today’s Gospel passage from the second chapter of Mark, Jesus lays down part of the foundation for His public ministry. The events of today’s Gospel took place not long after Jesus’ Baptism, which inaugurated His public ministry. The last sentence of the passage holds several clues for us about Jesus’ earthly mission.
“I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” If we took these words at face value, we might consider “the righteous” to be the Pharisaic scribes who provoked these words from Jesus. Obviously the scribes considered themselves so. But like Jesus’ parables and so much else in His preaching, there is a paradox at work. Jesus turns the popular notions of who is righteous and who is a sinner on their heads.
We could certainly not say that the tax collectors and other “sinners” were made righteous simply by the act of physically dining with Jesus. But the physical proximity, and the closeness it suggests, make clear that neither Jesus nor the “sinner” shuns the other’s company. We cannot receive spiritual and moral righteousness from Jesus if we don’t enter His presence and spend time with Him, especially in the sacrificial banquet of the Eucharist. To shun him there would be to stand like the scribes, aloof and self-righteous.