Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jan. 24
Luke 1: 1-4; 4: 14-21
The writer of the third Gospel, St. Luke, was a Gentile and he wrote his Gospel mainly for Gentiles like himself. Jesus was the hope of all peoples. According to Luke, Jesus began his teaching ministry in Nazareth in Galilee. And he began by reading the words of Isaiah the Prophet where the Prophet proclaims the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Messiah for Israel: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus tells us that he came to proclaim glad tidings, good news, to the poor – to announce a year of favor from the Lord. Jesus came to make a difference in the lives of those who followed his words. He revealed to us his values, the practice of which guarantee happiness, peace and joy. The Messiah will come to lead us to wholeness, goodness and holiness.
Unfortunately, this was not what all the people were expecting in the Messiah who was to come. Rather, they were expecting someone to lead them to victory over their enemies and those who persecuted them. They wanted revenge, control and power. But Jesus didn’t come for this. He came to call the people to repentance from their old ways and to become aware of his new ways. They were to become a new people of God, members of his family, daughters and sons of God. They were to become a people of compassion, caring and concerned for one another, kind, gentle, patient and understanding. They were to use their individual gifts and talents for one another. They were to be forgiving of any hurt or offense heaped on them by others. In other words, they were now members of the Kingdom of God here on earth, right now. Some of the people understood what Jesus was all about and others did not.
And that is pretty much how things are today. The choice is ours. We can accept Jesus’ values and ways or we can follow our own way. We can be members of God’s Kingdom or not. His invitation to follow him remains open for all of us.
Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Jan. 25
Mark 16: 15-18; Acts 9: 1-22; 23: 3-16
Conversion amounts to a change of attitude, emotion or viewpoint from one of indifference, disbelief or antagonism to one of acceptance, faith or enthusiastic support. It usually brings about a personality change. This describes accurately the spiritual awakening of the 12thStep of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The one changed becomes a new person with new values and attitudes and a new way of living and behaving.
Today we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. He changed from a rigid Jew who persecuted to followers of Christianity to one of its greatest promoters and preachers. He was indeed a new person. The story of this conversion can be found in the two citations for the Acts of the Apostles given above. It is good for us to read them on this feast. Note particularly the part played by God in this conversion. Without God having had a part in it, there would have been no conversion. And so it is with us and our changes. If we desire a change, God must be a part of it or it will all be to no avail. Many people are not aware of this and it delays things unnecessarily.
What would you like changed in your life right now? Be willing and open to wanting the change, ask Jesus’ help in changing, and it will happen in one way or another. Conversion, repentance, the proverbial U turn is possible to all with Jesus’ help.
Tuesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 26
Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus
Both of these men, Timothy and Titus, were devoted servants and disciples of St. Paul. They traveled with Paul on some of his many journeys and helped him spread the Gospel to the Gentiles in the then-known-world. Timothy was eventually martyred for the faith, being stoned to death in Ephesus. Titus presumably died a natural death in Crete where he was the first Bishop. His head is now enthroned in the Church of St. Mark in Venice, Italy.
Our Gospel for today is from that of St. Luke and tells of Jesus sending his first disciples out on their first mission. St. Paul and his disciples, members of the Kingdom, gave much to spread the values of our Savior. So do we, as the disciples of Jesus. Maybe today, following the feasts of St. Paul, Timothy and Titus we can reflect on how we can better follow Christ and spread his values of happiness, peace and joy to others.
Wednesday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 27
Mark 4: 1-20
Our Gospel for today’s Liturgy is the Parable of the Sower who goes out to sow the seed. Jesus, of course, is the Sower sowing the seed of his word, his values, his way, truth and life. The seed he is sowing falls on different kinds of soil: each of us, you and me. We can react to his way, his word, in different ways, as the parable shows. One of the ways we can react is by being fertile, rich soil. I think this is what all of us would hope to be. Being rich and fertile soil, it seems to me, for all practical purposes, would result in our having an intimate relationship with God. I was just reading the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours and there I came across the words of God to Moses: “You have found favor with me; you are my intimate friend.” (Exodus 33: 17). We are intimate with God when we find favor with him.
An intimate relationship is an essential, intrinsic relationship. Without it we are not who we are supposed to be nor can we do what we are supposed to do. It is absolutely necessary that we be one with God’s way, truth and life. An intimate relationship with God demands communication. Prayer, talking to God, and meditation, listening to God, are a must. And this relationship only happens over a period of time, sometimes many years. We have to hang in there, persevere in our relationship through good times and bad times. And, finally, in an intimate relationship we are willing to change our ways and ideas for the one with whom we are intimate.
Is my present relationship with God what I would call intimate? Am I finding favor with God? Am I good, rich, fertile soil for his word? If not, where am I lacking and what do I have to do to be intimate with my God?
Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 28
Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas
Today the Church honors one of its great theologians, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Thomas was a philosopher, theologian and teacher; truly a shining light in the history of the Church. In 1243, at age 17, he joined the Dominican Order in Naples. Later he studied at Cologne, Germany, under the celebrated St. Albert the Great. His nickname was “dumb ox” because of his silent ways and large size – but he was a brilliant student. He taught in Cologne, Paris, and Rome. He left a great monument of his learning, the “Summa Theologica” which later became the main text for theology in Catholic seminaries. This lasted until the Second Vatican Council (1963-1965). Thomas died on his way to the Second Council of Lyons, in 1274. He is still recognized as one of the greatest and most influential theologians of all times.
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.
Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 29
Mark 4: 26-34
“The Kingdom of God ….. is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants ….. so the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed – very small when it is planted – but then when it grows, it becomes the largest of plants. The Kingdom of God within us is our spiritual nature, the spiritual side of our human being. And, like the physical side, it too must grow. It starts out small, as does our physical side in the form of a baby, but then, due to many factors, it grows up just as we grow up physically from baby to adult, to maturity. There is a parallel between our spiritual growth and our physical growth and this parallel is illustrated by the Seven Sacraments.
In Baptism, we begin, we are born into the Kingdom of God, just as it is necessary we be born physically into the world. We grow up in the Sacrament of Confirmation. And in order to grow we need nourishment which comes through the Eucharist for our spiritual growth. Sometimes we go the wrong way spiritually, we get off course, and then it is necessary to make the U turn in the Sacrament of Penance. And just as we sometimes become physically ill, we also become spiritually ill and have the remedy of the Sacrament of the Sick. Finally, just as we are loved physically by family and friends, we must be loved spiritually, and we find this in the Sacraments of Orders and Marriage. We must give this love away in order to possess it.
We think of our physical growth often. Just look at all the exercise programs today and the million and one different diets, all aiming at making us the physical wonders of the world. But all too often we don’t pay much attention to our spiritual growth. Let’s reflect a bit today on how this situation can be improved.
Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jan. 30
Mark 4: 35-41
God is the Creator of all things- and this includes the seas. God, Jesus, then, has power over creation – over the land, the seas, the heavens and all they contain, over the animals and over humankind. God is all powerful. We see in the Scriptures numerous instances of God’s power over nature. The Psalms speak of his splitting the Red Sea in two allowing the Israelites to pass through, of calming the raging waters and the waves of the sea. Jesus, God, certainly has the power to do this.
In our Gospel for today, Jesus calms that sea that is threatening to sink the boat in which Jesus and his disciples were crossing the sea to the other side. This incident happens in the beginning of Mark’s Gospel when the disciples are still trying to figure out who Jesus really is: “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” Soon their faith would grow and they would discover the answer: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the One who is to come.