Father Howard Hansen’s Reflections
for The First Week in Ordinary Time 2011
The Baptism of the Lord
Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7; Mt. 3:13-17
On this Sunday after the Epiphany, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The first reading from Isaiah and the Gospel from St. Matthew are particularly relevant for us on this feast that serves to remind us of our own Baptism and the purpose of it.
In the Gospel Jesus is baptized by John and the first question that we ask is why? The sinless Jesus surely did not need to be baptized. His baptism, we say, is one of affirmation, the affirmation being that God is present to us in a very special way in Baptism. And Jesus’ Baptism by John also affirms the prophecy of Isaiah that “my favor rests on him.”
Baptism was a ritual used by the Jews for people who came into Judaism from some other religion. They needed to be “washed” or “cleansed” from their pagan ways. The Jews themselves did not need baptism. They were the children of Abraham and the chosen people of God.
The words of the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading apply to Jesus and also to us. Just as Jesus came as a “servant”, so do we. One of our main characteristics as followers of Christ is our servanthood. We are servants for God and for one another. In Baptism we are “grasped by the hand of God” and become servants of God. We are God’s chosen, holy people and the elements of servanthood outlined in Isaiah’s 42nd chapter apply not only to the Messiah but to us as well.
Our Baptism is a covenant action. A covenant is a coming together with God, a joining of ourselves and God. We are his special, chosen people whom he holds by the hand and guides. We are to be a “light for the nations,” leading others to Christ by adopting his values and ways into our own lives. Jesus will tell us later in the Gospel that we are the light of the world and that we are to let that light shine for all to see. Indeed, our Baptism is a special grace of God.
We are sent as servants to others to open the eyes of the blind. We have said before that we are all blind in so many different ways. God’s ways are not our ways and it is difficult for us to make his ways ours. This is our job as servants and then to show others by our example how this can be accomplished. We are to show those bound in the darkness of sin that there is another way, that we can be free from this darkness by following his way, truth and life.
In living as children of the light, in grasping tightly the hand of Jesus and allowing him to lead us along the way, we find happiness, joy, fulfillment and peace. We spoke last Sunday about encountering Jesus and surely Baptism is one of these encounters. It brings us the fulfillment of life and helps us to lead others in the same direction.
Lord, help us to be your faithful servants. Help us to remain always close to you and to help others come to you. This is our purpose in your plan and it all begins with Baptism.
Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 1: 14-20
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord that we celebrated yesterday brings to an end the Christmas Season. Now we return again to Ordinary Time in the First Week. Ordinary time will continue until March 8, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Lent and Easter time will last until June 13, the Feast of Pentecost, after which we will return again to Ordinary Time. From today until the beginning of Lent, our daily Gospel will be taken from St. Mark. And so we begin.
Ordinary Time appropriately begins at the beginning and we find ourselves in chapter 1 of St. Mark’s Gospel and read the words: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
My thoughts go back to a homily we just read a few days ago on New Year’s Day that has probably been forgotten by this time. We remarked then that the New Year was a time when we thought of resolutions and we remarked that resolutions and repenting are kind of about the same thing. Both involve making the U turn of change in our lives. And this is not an easy thing to do, as we all know only too well. We said then that we start out this whole process all gung ho and then in a week or two find ourselves right back where we started in the same old same old. And we are left with a bag full of frustration.
The reason for this? Oftentimes we bite off more than we can chew at one time. We say we will never do this or that again. What we should say is: I won’t do this or that today. It is easier to go for one day at a time than forever. And this is what Ordinary Time is all about. It is all about doing the best I can do today. Remember, yesterday is gone and will never return. Tomorrow is not here yet and perhaps it will not be for me. All I really have is today.
Let’s try and lives our lives one day at a time. Makes sense to me!
Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 1: 21-28
Our Gospel for today begins with the first of three miracles with which St. Mark ends the first chapter of his Gospel. In today’s Gospel Jesus drives an evil spirit out of a man. In the Gospel for tomorrow he will heal Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and on the following day he will heal a leper who comes to him for help.
Jesus’ miracles are sometimes considered “signs.” A sign is something that tells about something other than itself. What the sign tells us is the important thing. The miracle in today’s Gospel was very important to the possessed man. What is here that is important for you and for me? I believe this sign is important for us because it tells us that Jesus had power over evil spirits. Jesus is goodness personified. His action in curing the possessed man shows us that good will eventually triumph over evil. Those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day run into this idea frequently in reading the psalms. Oftentimes we become envious of ignorant people who are doing evil things and seemingly benefit from doing so. They cheat, they are greedy, and yet they seem to be happy. This miracle in today’s Gospel tells us they are not happy.
Goodness will triumph over evil eventually. It is the truly good who will be happy, content and at peace with God and themselves. Let us pray today for the strength to continue in the right path we have chosen.
Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 1: 29-39
My Bible Commentary tells me that Peter’s mother-in-law whom Jesus cured from a fever in today’s Gospel, was the first person in the Gospels to act as Jesus acts. That is interesting! The author says this because of the words “she waited on them.” Waiting on others is the same thing as serving others, which is the primary thing Jesus came to do. Jesus came to serve. Way back in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we read of Jesus as the suffering servant. This was his legacy. Jesus was a servant to all of us par excellence. Jesus says repeatedly in the Gospels that he came “not to be served but to serve.” Service here is giving of oneself and expecting nothing in return.
This is also meant to be our legacy as followers of Jesus. We are to serve one another with the gifts and talents Jesus has given to us from the beginning. Once again, and let’s underline it, life is not all about me. My selfishness must give way to serving and caring for others.
Let’s take the time today to honestly look at ourselves to see how we are faring in this area of being of service to others.
Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 1: 40-45
In today’s Gospel a leper approached Jesus and said to him, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” And Jesus, moved with compassion for the man, stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
We have remarked numerous times that lepers were ostracized from the rest of society because of their illness. Here, in this miracle, we run into the so-called “Markan secret” that we hear in many other places in Scripture. Jesus told the leper, “See that you tell no one anything.” But the leper went and told everyone he met that Jesus had cured him. The leper went from a person ostracized from society, lonely and fearful, to a person who was now part of the normal community again and who also had the courage to witness to the healing powers of Jesus.
If we have been healed in any way by the Lord, let us too proclaim it from the rooftops. Perhaps this will help others to call on Jesus for help and also become witnesses of Jesus’ healing power and love for all.
Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 2: 1-12
Mark’s Gospel for today continues the series of miracles he has been narrating. He ended his first chapter with three miracles and now he begins the second chapter with another, the healing of the paralytic. In this miracle, as in most of Jesus’ miracles, Jesus comments about the faith that make the miracle possible to happen. Only in this particular miracle it is not the faith of the paralytic that Jesus comments on but rather the faith of the four individuals who brought him into the presence of Jesus. “When Jesus saw their faith he said to him, “child, your sins are forgiven …… Rise, pick up your mat and walk.”
This brings up a point for our consideration. Is our faith strong enough to enable us to bring others to meet and encounter Jesus? Do we do everything we can to encourage someone who is interested in knowing more about Jesus? Do we perhaps try and arrange to have the person meet Jesus with us? This can be accomplished by praying with the person, inviting them to Sunday Liturgy or to the RCIA classes in the parish. We can also volunteer our services to the RCIA program as a sponsor or teacher.
Let’s try and get involved in somehow showing others the way to Jesus. If we can but arrange the meeting, Jesus will take it from there, as we witness in our Gospel story today.
Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 2: 13-17
In our Gospel reading for today it would appear that Jesus went looking for the worst of the worst to invite them to have dinner with him and listen to his teachings. “Many tax collectors and sinners ate with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed them.”
The people we try to introduce to Jesus do not have to be what we call “holy or good” people, those who maybe pray a lot or read their Bible a lot. It is perfectly OK and even recommended to approach the worst “sinner” you can find and tell them you have a friend you would like them to meet. Then introduce them in some way to Jesus and his values. This is where real saints come from. I can remember a real good story of doing just this and the beautiful results of it all, but I cannot write about it for fear of the person being recognized by some who might read it. Let’s just say it can and does happen and when it does, it is powerful.