Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jan. 25
Mark 1: 14-20
After John the Baptist had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
These opening words from the Gospel chosen to be read on this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, tell us the purpose, the aim, the thrust of Jesus’ mission. He came to encourage us and to suggest that we repent – that we take to heart the good news he was proclaiming.
The word “repent” means literally to “turn from one’s sin.” In the Greek it is the word metanoia. When we repent, we turn toward doing something the right way rather than doing it the wrong way. Repent means “a change of mind.” Repentance and conversion go together. We turn to another way of doing something. If, for example, I hate and do mean things to someone who is harming me, an enemy, if you will, I am going to have to change my mind and change my way of acting if I want to repent and follow the way of Jesus that tells me to love my enemy. I like to refer to repentance in a more modern way as making a U turn and changing direction in my life.
It is probably a fact of human nature that none of us likes to change. Human beings are creatures of habit. We develop a particular way of doing something, get used to this way from doing it over and over the same way, and find it very difficult and inconvenient to change that way. All of us, for example, when we put on a pair of pants or slacks put the same leg in first. That becomes our habit and we don’t even think about doing it any other way. The pants or slacks go on very easily this way. But, if for some reason or other, I try to put the other leg in first, I usually get all discombobulated, do a jig around the room and bounce off the wall. I changed my habit and things don’t go well.
The same thing is true of our living habits and attitudes. I used to like to drink and I drank a lot. I found my comfort and relaxation in drinking. It worked just fine for many years. What could have been better than to sit down after a busy day of teaching and have a few beers? But then it started to cause problems, big problems, and finally got so bad that I was getting sick and tired of being sick and tired. Change, repentance, was necessary if I wanted to continue to live. Despite this knowledge, it wasn’t easy to acquire this new way of doing things, this change. But with God’s help and the help of many other people who wished me well, I did change and found a new life, a new way of living comfortably.
What habits do I need to change in order to love God more and to love my neighbor more? This is what the Gospel for today urges us to reflect on. God and our neighbor make up the kingdom we profess to belong to here on earth according to the Gospel of Jesus. What do I have to change to be a better member? With his promised help, it is possible to change. We can change. We can repent.
Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 26
Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus
Yesterday, January 25, was the traditional date of celebrating the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. In fact, permission was given by a decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship for the Mass of this feast to be celebrated in place of the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time for those who wished to do so. Today, January 26, we celebrate the Memorial of two of Paul’s closest disciples, Saints Timothy and Titus.
St. Timothy was a Greek and he joined Paul when he was preaching at Lystra. He became Paul’s close friend and confidant. He was first sent to Thessalonica to report on the condition of the Christians there and to encourage them in the time of their persecution. He later went to Macedonia, Achaia, Caesarea and Rome. According to tradition, he later went to Ephesus, became its first bishop, and it was there that he was stoned to death. Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, one around the year 65 and one when he was in prison in Rome awaiting his execution.
St. Titus was a disciple and companion of St Paul to whom the great Saint addressed one of this letters. Paul referred to Titus as “my true child in our common faith.” He is mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Galatians where Paul wrote of journeying to Jerusalem accompanied by Barnabas and Titus. He later went to Corinth, Crete, and then to Dalmatia in Croatia where he served as their first bishop. Today his body is enshrined in the church of St. Mark in Venice, Italy.
Saints Timothy and Titus, pray for us.
Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 27
Mark 3: 31-35
“For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Relationships are of the greatest importance to all of us. Alone we cannot survive for very long. We need others to help us, affirm us, encourage us and give us purpose and the wherewithal for living. Our relationships are lumped into two categories in the Great Commandment: God and Neighbor. There we are told we must love, be in relationship with, God and neighbor. And the greater and more intimate the relationship, the better.
We spoke last Sunday of repenting, changing our minds, conversion and making U turns in our lives. One of the main places we look for the possibility of change is regarding these relationships. How can I make them better? How can I better love God and my neighbor? What is going on in my life that is blocking me from closer and more intimate relationships? What changes would help these relationships? Let’s all reflect on these questions today.
Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 28
Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas was born the year before St. Francis of Assisi died, in 1225. He died at the very young age of 49 in 1274. Thomas was a Dominican Friar and excelled as a philosopher, theologian and teacher. His greatest work that is still read by many today is the Summa Theologica. When I was studying for the priesthood back in the ‘50’s, this was the required text used in the study of Theology. Thomas was one of the very few to write a systematic study of the whole of Theology. He died before it was completely finished and another Friar, his secretary, finished the work.
Despite the greatness of this achievement in the field of Theology, Thomas realized its inadequacy as far as really knowing God and suggested to his secretary that it be treated like so much straw and burned. Many of us who minister yet today are greatly indebted to Thomas for our sound introduction to the study of Theology.
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.
Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 29
Mark 4: 21-25
In today’s Gospel selection, Jesus urges all of us to work hard to realize our potentialities. He tells us that a lamp should not be placed under a bed or bushel basket but rather on a stand out in the open where it can light up the rest of the house. Our lamps are our gifts and talents given to us by God. We do not deserve them, we did not earn them. They are gifts from God; they are the grace of God, meant to be used for the good of all God’s people. We are not to use them selfishly or hide them and not use them at all. To do so thwarts God’s plan for creation.
Under the inspiration of this Gospel, let us reflect on the special gifts God has given to us. Are we using them for the benefit and happiness of others as God intended?
Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 30
Mark 4: 26-34
Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel selection that we start out very small and then grow into a great plant in his kingdom. God can take a tiny gift, a tiny talent, and make it something great for his kingdom. Sometimes we look at our talents and compare them to someone else’s who has the same talents. And, of course, we come our second best and stop using our talents. Wrong!! We should never compare our talents and gifts to anyone else’s. God gives to each what he wants them to have and for the purpose he intends. Someone who can only play a simple little tune on a piano might do more good in a given situation that someone who can play Beethoven’s symphonies perfectly.
We are to take what God has given us and use it as best we can and let God be concerned with the rest. But, let us not compare ourselves to others.
Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 31
Mark 4: 35-41
“Jesus woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was a great calm.”
Today’s Gospel finds Jesus and his disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee in their boat. Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat. A violent storm came up and the disciples were afraid the boat would overturn. They woke Jesus and he calmed the waves. “They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who is this whom even wind and sea obey?””
We all have storms and squalls, both emotional and spiritual, in our lives and often we are frightened that the boat of life is going to be swamped. At times such as these, we should remember this incident in the Gospels. Jesus will help us just as he helped his disciples. We might hear him say to us, “O you of little faith” as things calm down and return to normal.