Father Howard Hansen’s Reflections
for The Second Week in Ordinary Time 2011


Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 
January 16, Isaiah 49: 3, 5-6; John 1: 29-34


“I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”


The words just quoted above from the Prophet Isaiah are from the first reading in the Liturgy for this Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. In the prophecy God speaks these words to his Son whom he is sending to us, the Messiah, the Anointed One, and through Christ to us who are his ministers and servants. We are part of this mission, this plan of God, to bring salvation, deliverance, to the ends of the earth, to all peoples everywhere. This mission is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Gen. 12: 2-3: “I will make you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you, and all the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.”), and his promise to Moses in Exodus 19: 5: “You shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people.” The salvation of this ministry is none other than the message of freedom and peace.


These words of Isaiah really tell us what we are all about, what our purpose is for being followers of Christ. Our mission, our purpose, is the salvation of all people, of all to the ends of the earth. WOW! This is awesome and we don’t want to forget it. Being Christian, followers of Christ, is more than just raising our own families and assisting those who live in my neighborhood whom I call friends. We must see ourselves as part of a larger scenario. And yet, sometimes we just about reach the end of our rope trying to keep our families and neighbors in good shape. We get so enmeshed in the small picture of our existence that we forget the larger scenario, the ends of the earth, the world of which we are just a very small but important part.


In view of these words of Isaiah that we are reading today during our Liturgy, let us try and keep in mind the larger scene of which we are a part as servants of Christ. Let us try and remember to pray for all people every day, pray that Christ’s message and values will permeate their hearts too. And let us continue to seek to be better examples of Christ’s way, truth and life in our own corner of this big, big world so that others who see our values see the values of Christ. This is how salvation will spread to the ends of the earth. I know it seems like one big impossibility but always let us remember, as we do our part, that God is with us all.


Fr. Howard


Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time 
Jan. 17, Mark 2: 18-22


An anonymous author once wrote: I can think of only one person who welcomes change — a wet baby.


Ah, yes, good old change. Change in general is something that none of us is too fond of. We kind of like to settle in, get comfortable with things and let it go at that. And that certainly is not what change is about. Change constantly stirs things up and ruffles the nest, keeps us on the move. I think people today are getting more used to having things constantly change. A new whatever is obsolete before I get it out of the store. But I guess it was this way in the generation of my Mom and Dad too. They lived for almost the whole 20th century and during that time their way of living went from the horse and buggy and memorizing the multiplication tables to the moon and computers. Talk about change! And I know all of this was hard for my parents to keep up with. Dad never did stop trying to put new wine into old skins.


Change, I believe, is part of God’s plan for us. God desires us to take our gifts and talents to their full potential. And that involves changing things. Jesus himself told us he came to make all things new. He came to change, not to do away with or destroy. Change is a building, a growing, and that is what Jesus came for. We will see some of these changes instigated by Jesus in the Gospels for the next few days. Watch for them. And let’s examine this whole idea of change as we see it. Do we try and change with the times or is there a constant battle going on within us? Are we still trying to pour new wine into old skins?


Fr. Howard


Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time 
Jan. 18, Mark 2: 23-28


In the book of Genesis, when God created the whole world and everything in it, he finally reached the seventh day, the sabbath, and he rested. I guess this is where the origin of making the sabbath, the seventh day of the week, a day of rest. What is good enough for God is good enough for us.


In today’s Gospel, Jesus and his disciples are walking through a field of grain on the sabbath day. The disciples are a little bit hungry and picked some of the heads of grain to munch on as a snack. The Pharisees saw them do this and had a fit. Picking grain was work and you couldn’t do that on the sabbath day! Jesus corrected the Pharisees. He didn’t do away with the idea of resting on the sabbath; he changed it for certain extenuating circumstances, for a change in priorities. “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath,” he told them.


This made sense then and it makes sense now. And look where things have gone today!


Fr. Howard


Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time 
Jan. 19, Mark 3: 1-6


In today’s Gospel selection, Jesus heals a man’s withering arm on the sabbath. Kind of a continuation of yesterday’s idea. Before he heals the man he invites him to “come up here before us.” This implies that people who were physically disabled were shunned by the “normal” community. So Jesus is introducing change here on two fronts: working (healing) on the sabbath, and treating disabled people the same way you would treat everyone else, with respect, dignity and understanding.


This brings up another area in our lives where we tend to shun people who are different or disabled. Are they to be avoided at all costs or do I stop and speak to them and assist them if they need or ask for help? We have a tendency to escape from anyone or anything that is different from the ordinary way of being. Does this apply to me?


Fr. Howard


Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time 
Jan. 20, Mark 3: 7-12


We read in today’s Gospel reading that Jesus’ actions attracted crowds of people from all over the place. Jesus was something of a sensation. Who is this man who is going around changing the accepted way of doing things, who is healing people and driving out demons? So many people flocked around Jesus that he was afraid of being crushed and had the disciples bring a boat so he could shove off from shore and talk to them from out on the water.


And once again the “Marcan secret” is part of the Gospel: “He warned them (the unclean spirits who recognized him) sternly not to make him known.” Let the people wonder who he was until they finally figured it out for themselves that he was the Messiah, the Anointed One of God.

Have I figured out yet from his actions in my life that Jesus is the Son of God?


Fr. Howard


Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time 
Jan. 21, Mark 3: 13-19


In today’s Gospel, Jesus gets into some very important business: the appointing of the Twelve whose ultimate purpose is to carry his message to the whole world. The Gospel tells us that Jesus went up the mountain to do this. This Gospel does not say explicitly that Jesus went up the mountain to pray as it does on numerous other occasions. I think we can assume that he did as he was in the habit of praying before important happenings in his mission. Surely the appointing of the Twelve was of the utmost importance and Jesus prayed before he called them.


Again the reminder is there for all of us. Do we remember to pray before beginning an important part of our day? These times might include our waking from sleep in the morning, at meal times, our being together with a family member for special time, going to work or school, cleaning the house, before retiring at night. All of these are important times of our day and a prayer before doing them acknowledges their importance and asks God’s presence and help. It might be a good idea to tie an imaginary string around our finger to remind us to do this throughout the day. It certainly seems to me that things go better and easier when I do this.


Fr. Howard


Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time 
Jan. 22, Mark 3: 20-21


“He is out of his mind.”


If I were to say the above quoted words to someone right now, they would think I was telling them they were crazy or coo-coo. And maybe this is what Jesus’ family, neighbors or friends were saying to him at this time. And when you stop and think about it, they probably had pretty good cause to think he was crazy, that Jesus had lost it. He did choose for himself a road that was to lead to his destruction. He left a safe place at Nazareth where he was working as a carpenter to preach a message to the people that was unpopular and to which the people often responded to by being hostile and nasty. He had gone from a safe place to an unsafe place. He challenged and antagonized the religious leaders of the people by seemingly brushing aside their hallowed rules regarding the sabbath day, eating and fasting, and all their many purification rites. He spoke against the system and gave them ample room to think he was possessed or crazy.


So, the people may have been telling Jesus literally that he was out of his mind. On the other hand, there are different ways of translating the Greek word that is translated “out of his mind.” Literally the Greek word means “out of himself.” My Commentary says it was related to the Greek word for “ecstasy.” In using this word, Mark may have intended to say that Jesus had a more elevated consciousness than those around him. Indeed, he came to make things new and this could well mean he came to raise the level of human consciousness which he did by preaching his values of love, caring, compassion, forgiveness, service to others, unselfishness, being peaceful. All of these values were rather contrary to the ordinary way of acting at that time.


Analyzing all of this, I think we can conclude that we should feel good if someone sees us following the values of Jesus and tells us we are crazy for doing so. Indeed, maybe we should feel uneasy if people do not believe we are a little strange as Christians. There are many Christians and other just plain good people who are not greedy, lustful, angry, violent, warmongers, selfish, unforgiving, resentful, unethical in making a lot of money by exploiting the poor and vulnerable people they meet, and other ignorant people who make the wrong choice for lives of crime, addiction and so forth.


Has anyone told you you are crazy lately?

Fr. Howard

 

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