Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jan. 18
John 1: 35-42
God’s love for us is a mystery. Remember, a mystery is not something we cannot understand, but rather it is something that is endlessly understandable, something we can go on and on about and never resolve it or exhaust it. God’s love is unconditional and limitless. This means, among other things, that we will be saved in spite of ourselves and our many rejections of God by our sinful actions. God is love, we read in St. John’s First Letter (I John 4:8). God cannot not love.
Despite our many rejections of God by going our own way, God never abandons us and never ceases to call us back to himself. In today’s Gospel, he invites the disciples to “come and see” and stay with him. When we “come and see,” we go to him and leave behind our own way of doing things and we begin to see that it is his way, truth, and life that brings us the happiness, joy and peace we so fundamentally desire. We stop focusing on ourselves and focus instead on Jesus. When this happens, we have truly turned the corner and made the U turn of true conversion and repentance to the Lord. This is what it is all about, and it is the greatest gift of his love for us that we can imagine.
Jesus, Lover of us all, come to us!
Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 19
Mark 2: 18-22
“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?”
Can the wedding guests fast? The bridal metaphor used in our Gospel chosen to be read today expresses a new love relationship between God and his people in the person and mission of Jesus to his followers. It is the beginning of the new and joyful messianic time of fulfillment and the passing of the old. Any attempts, the Gospel tells us, at assimilating the Pharisaic practice of fasting, or of extending the preparatory discipline of John’s disciples beyond the arrival of the bridegroom would be as futile as sewing a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak or pouring new wine into old wineskins with the resulting destruction of both the cloth and the wine.
Jesus came to make all things new, the Scriptures tell us. He came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. We cannot allow ourselves to become so wedded to the old ways that we become blind to the new ways and possibilities. There were times in all of our lives where we resisted change only to learn later that the change was the best thing that could have happened to us. If I, personally, had always resisted change, I would have been dead a long time ago because I would never have stopped drinking and discovered the new and wonderful life of sobriety. Let us pray for openness to the new in our lives.
Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 20
Mark 2: 23-28
I read a little anonymous tidbit that fits the Gospel for today: There is only one person who welcomes change: a wet baby. This kind of fits the Pharisees. They certainly didn’t welcome the changes that Jesus brought and most particularly they didn’t welcome changes of the law governing the observance of the Sabbath. In today’s Gospel we see the first encounter of Jesus and the Pharisees over the Sabbath observance. It will not be the last. And this was the main topic of discussion that brought out the hatred of the Pharisees for Jesus. It was, as we have said before, perhaps the main cause of the crucifixion.
Sometimes it is easy for us to bend to the winds of change. Other times it is seemingly impossible. We just won’t budge – no way. I have seen this often in the area of resentments that one person has for another. Let us reflect for a while today on whether there is anything in my own life that would be better changed and I will not hear of it? If so, let us bring whatever this might be to the Lord in honest and humble prayer, asking for the gift of positive change.
Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 21
Mark 3: 1-6
In the Gospel chosen to be read today, Jesus is again pictured in conflict with the Pharisees over the question of the Sabbath-day observance. His opponents were clearly not too happy with him on this point and regarded him as an outright violator of the Sabbath Day. Jesus, in today’s Gospel, raises the issue to another dimension by asking them if it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than evil. The answer to this question is obvious and further infuriates the Pharisees.
The Pharisees were guilty of ritualizing religion to the extreme. Religion was to them purely a ritual and had nothing to do with love. Someone once said: In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than to have words without a heart. Ritual is OK if it, like everything else, remains in the middle ground. The Mass is a ritual, the same thing over and over every time it is said. But it also reminds us of the great love of Jesus for us in his dieing for us on the cross. Ritual plus love is the right combination.
How does religion come across to me? Is it purely words? Purely ritual? Or does it increase my love for God and neighbor?
Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 22
Mark 3: 7-12
The Ordo, or Order of Prayer in the Liturgy, points out to us that today, Jan. 22, is the 36thanniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade (1973) and suggests that in the United States this day should be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right of life. I believe we can all say a prayer today for this intention as well as perform some act of self-denial to remind us of this anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.
In our Gospel for today, we once again run into the “messianic secret” in Mark’s Gospel. The ancient Egyptians called their kings “son of god.” The Romans called their emperors “son of god.” The Jews called good people “son of God.” So why does Jesus silence the evil spirits in today’s Gospel for calling him the “Son of God?” We remarked a short time ago on this very point that this is because the people were not yet ready for this tremendous revelation. Jesus wished to educate them slowly on this point. We, in our time, have been so educated on this point that we are urged to shout it from the rooftops: Jesus is the Son of God!
Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 23
Mark 3: 13-19
“Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him.”
Today’s Gospel tells of a very solemn occasion in the early chapters of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus went up the mountain. Here and elsewhere in the Scriptures, the mountain is associated with solemn acts and moments in the mission of Jesus. We saw in yesterday’s Gospel selection the power of Jesus to draw people to himself through his teaching and deeds of power. This prepares the way for creating a new people of Israel. Today’s Gospel of choosing the Twelve and telling them of their mission is a prelude to this.
Jesus also calls each of us in our Christian Baptism to be his followers, his disciples. We are to be a “new people,” a people dedicated to preaching his values to a secular world thereby driving out the demons of greed, violence, resentments and non-forgiveness, selfishness, lust, war and killing. We are rather to be a people of caring, acceptance, tolerance for one another, compassion, forgiving, loving, chasteness, serving others, a people of happiness, joy and peace. Maybe we can spend a little time today thinking of how we are fulfilling our duties as Jesus’ disciples.
Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 24
Mark 3: 20-21
In today’s Gospel, the family (relatives) of Jesus takes note of all that is going on in his life and come to the conclusion, “He is out of his mind.”
There are many people in the world today living by their own standards and values that group all Christians into a people who are out of their minds. Every now and then I come in contact with young people who tell me they are enjoying the overuse and abuse of alcohol and other drugs. They go to great parties, and on and on and on. When I try and douse the fire with a bit of caution and a warning about how addictions can and do foul up one’s whole life – they look at me with a smile, of all things, on their faces that says: You are out of your mind; you don’t have a clue as to what the good life is all about. I take a moment or two to say a prayer for them, hoping that somewhere along the line they will see the light as I myself did. But sometimes it takes years before we become sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Yep, Christians are out of their minds preaching responsibility, love, compassion, forgiveness, moderation, tolerance, acceptance, service and all the other values that bring happiness, joy and peace into our lives. Mark Twain was a very witty guy. I read a little remark of his that fits the topic of this homily: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”