Daily Reflections 1st Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)
Saturday 16th January
In the readings today we have the encouraging message that with God we have nothing to be afraid of. God is a God of mercy and forgiveness. With Jesus we always have the ability to start again and live a life of faith.
We gather as God’s children and ask for his loving mercy and forgiveness.
Galilee, where Jesus was living at the time of today’s Gospel, belonged to one of the sons of late King Herod, Herod Antipas. Herod’s kingdom had been divided between Herod’s three sons. These three new territories caused problems for the people living near the borders. Where once they had been free to move, now they had to pay a toll to go from one territory to the next.
Levi, the man Jesus meets in today’s Gospel, was in charge of one of these toll points. He would have been very unpopular with his compatriots, Just like the tax collectors and sinners Jesus also mingles with in today’s Gospel reading, Levi not only takes unwelcome fees from the people, but in doing so he works for Herod Antipas, who collaborates closely with the Roman authorities. By extension, Levi is allying himself with the much-loathed Romans.
So why does Jesus choose Levi? Levi is yet another example of Jesus extending his welcome and his mercy to those whom decent law-abiding Jewish society looked down upon. Jesus offers Levi a new way of life. In following Jesus, Levi finds the ability to start his life again. May we too always have the courage and faith to follow Jesus.
Friday 15th January
The Gospel story is a great lesson for us in persistence and particularly persistence in prayer. The paralytic man on the stretcher can’t get anywhere near Jesus, because the men carrying him can get through the crowd. So instead of giving up, they lower then man through the roof to make sure he gets to Jesus.
And immediately Jesus responds because he has seen their faith. Let us too reveal our own faith in Jesus and do all we can to get close to Him in our lives. We first ask for his loving mercy and forgiveness.
Often in our prayer life, we can think we are getting no where or we don’t seem to feel anything in prayer. This can be for so many reasons. And if this is how we feel then we are in good company, because even the greatest Saints felt as much.
But the great Saints became great Saints, because as in our gospel today, they persevered and would not take no for an answer. They wanted to get close to Jesus and would not let anything stop them.
May we have the same faith in our own lives to persevere and trust that Jesus can and will respond to our call made in faith.
Thursday 14th January
In the first reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews, we are encouraged to remain close to God and to keep encouraging each other in the faith.
And then in the Gospel, Jesus reveals his amazing power when he cures a poor leper. Jesus shows no reserve in coming to the outcasts help.
We gather as God’s children and ask for the same healing and forgiveness in our own lives.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus gives the poor leper clear instructions not to rush around telling everyone about his healing; and yet the man does. I think naturally he can not contain his excitement at being healed. It seems puzzling that Jesus does not want word of this miracle to get around. In the passage before this Gospel reading, Jesus healed many people in front of great crowds. The key is in the instructions that Jesus gives to the healed man. He tells him to go to the priest and make the right offering, as Jewish law dictates.
As the man suffered from leprosy, he would have been an outcast and considered ritually unclean. Jesus has gone beyond the laws of ritual cleansing, held so dear by the Pharisees and scribes, and healed the man without recourse to the law, but Jesus as always puts compassion first.
Yes the leper is cured, but he runs the risk of continuing to be rejected by society if he does not go through the proper Jewish laws in order to show in the traditional ritual way, that he is clean. This wasn’t Jesus trying to hush things up, this was Jesus looking after the healed man’s best interests, enabling him to be fully integrated and accepted by society.
Wednesday 13th January
In the first reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews, it explains how through Jesus, God really did become one like us, who shared our life totally.
Then in the Gospel, we see the beginning of the healing ministry of Jesus as revealed in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus is obviously very busy – yet He always finds time for prayer, so He is sustained in all He does.
We gather before the same Lord Jesus, who calls us to prayer and we ask for His loving mercy and forgiveness in our lives.
Archbishop Romero of El Salvador was an outspoken champion of the poor. In one of his sermons he spoke these extraordinary words: “I am glad that they have murdered priests in this country, because it would be very sad if in a country where they are murdering the people so horrifically there were no priests among the victims. It is a sign that the Church is truly incarnate in the problems of the people.” They were to be prophetic words, for the archbishop himself was killed at the altar on 24 March 1980.
He proclaimed the authenticity of the incarnate church that suffers with its people. The Letter to the Hebrews proclaims the authenticity of the God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. This is no detached Deity. This is the God of all empathy. In Jesus, God became truly one of us in our frailty and suffering. In Jesus, God has utter empathy with us. He, the eternal Son of God, has met the same sorrows and faced the same temptations as us. And so Christ can truly help us, as surely as he did on that Sabbath evening in Galilee. There we see the empathy of God in action.
Our faith is in the empathy of God made incarnate in Christ. This is the God of the Christians. Those who know God as such are called to be the most compassionate of people. In them, the world sees a truly incarnate Church, as “compassionate and trustworthy” as Christ himself.
Tuesday 12th January
In the first reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews, we hear how Jesus became one like us, in order to be at one with us, showing us the way to deal with temptation and giving us an example of compassion.
Then in the Gospel we hear how an unclean spirit recognizes Jesus as the Holy One of God. The ministry of Jesus is just beginning, he is teaching with authority, and already his reputation is spreading far and wide.
We gather in the presence of Jesus our teacher, and first as for His loving mercy and forgiveness.
There may be many times when we fall over. Sometimes we injure ourselves; some falls leave little damage. A nine-year-old boy fell 100 metres over a cliff edge that had been hidden by snow. His frantic father expected to see the child’s broken body far below him, but when he looked over the cliff, he found his son had landed in a small pool of water. The boy survived with only a cracked elbow to show for his fall.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is recognised, but not by someone who has understood and accepted his truth and authority. Instead he is correctly identified by “an unclean spirit”, who then publicly misinterprets Jesus’ mission. Jesus wanted his listeners to come to him through truth and through faith. He had come to build and to heal, not to knock down and destroy.
The falls that cause most harm are the ones that hurt us inside, often where nobody can see. Those are often the most difficult injuries, demanding great courage if we are to stand and face the world. Yet, without that strength, we cannot walk. We cannot face the future if we build it on a lie. Our world is full of false prophets who would draw us away from the truth towards dangers, which may look attractive from a distance. The only time that we really fall and injure ourselves is when we sin and fall away from God. If we listen to Jesus, then we have no need to fear anything that might happen to our physical bodies. Inside our souls, where it matters most, there we are safe and well.
Monday 11th January
In the first reading today, on this the first weekday of Ordinary Time, we have the beginning of the Letter to the Hebrews. This letter makes it very clear that Jesus is the one God has promised – the hope and fulfilment of al Jewish dreams.
Then in the Gospel, we see the beginning of the ministry of Jesus as he calls his first disciples to follow him. Thus the Good News is now being announced.
We gather in the presence of the same Lord Jesus, who calls us. And we as for His loving mercy and forgiveness in our lives.
An old Christian preacher was once asked to define Christian perseverance. He answered: “It means, first of all, to take hold; secondly, to hold on; thirdly and last, never to let go!” The Letter to the Hebrews has the same theme. This is a letter of encouragement, most likely written by a Jewish Christian from Alexandria in Egypt. This great cultural centre had a large Greekeducated Jewish community. It is called the Letter to the Hebrews because it is most likely addressed to Jewish Christians. There is as much scholarly speculation about the recipients of the Letter as about its author. One fact is clear: this is a community under stress because of persecution or disappointment. The Letter urges them to hold on to the faith they have received.
It begins with one of the most magnificent introductions of the New Testament. The person who wrote it must have been trained in Greek oratory. Now that gift is put to the service of Christ. In a single paragraph, the writer breathtakingly transports the readers from the foundation of the Old Testament prophets to Christ, the creator, heir and sustainer of all things, the ultimate revelation of the Deity, passing through the purifying sacrifice of the cross to the exaltation of Jesus to his place of glory, majesty and power in heaven.
In times of discouragement, we renew our faith in Christ, incarnate God and Saviour. That act of faith gives us the strength to continue on our pilgrim way.
Sunday 10th January – Baptism of the Lord
On Wednesday we celebrated the coming of the Magi to the infant Jesus, today we celebrate the last day of Christmas with the Baptism of Jesus. This marks the end of Christmastime and the beginning of Ordinary time, when Jesus begins His public ministry.
It is a reminder to us that as God’s baptised children, we have a role to play in bringing Jesus to the world. By virtue of our baptism, we all have a vocation by which we bring Jesus to the world.
So we begin, by placing ourselves in the presence of Jesus and ask for His loving mercy and forgiveness in our lives.
Cardinal Hume was once reflecting upon the importance of Baptism and he said;
“At Baptism God the Father looks down upon the one to be baptised, and sees in him or her, a family likeness, the likeness of His own Son Jesus Christ. Through Baptism we become Christ-like – Christened. And so God the Father can quite rightly say to us just as He said to Jesus, “You are my son or daughter, my favour rests o you.”
St Paul put it in a very profound way when he said,
“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!”
It is hard to really describe the immense dignity of one who is baptised. Through the centuries many saints and theologians have tried. St Peter himself said that through Baptism we are,
“… a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart.”
These words of St Peter, reflect our faith that Baptism gives us a special relationship with God, that we are part of God’s family we call the Church. God is not remote, God is all around us and especially God is within us.
I think no matter who we are we are all searching for truth and meaning in our lives. But this search is not just one way. We can be assured that God is searching for us too. God thirsts for us, our love, our lives, our time, our hopes and dreams. God longs to be part of them. And God gives us this wonderful Sacrament of Baptism in order that we may share in His life.
Those who come for Baptism whether for themselves or their children must do so fully understanding what they are doing. Indeed the rite of Baptism asks both parents and Godparents, ”Do you fully understand what you are doing?” And then right before the Baptism itself the priest asks the parents once more to be certain, “Is it your will that you child be baptised in the faith…” Parents are making a promise to give their children the chance to grow up knowing the love and presence of God. And this love and presence is manifest most fully in the church, where we are fed with the word of God in the readings, and the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion.
The fact of your presence here today, reveals that you have taken your own promises seriously. You are living to the best of your ability your life of faith. Baptism is not a one off event. It is an acceptance into a way of life, a life with God.
We are God’s baptised children, we can trust totally that the hand of God is with us. Just as the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism, so too did the Holy Spirit descend upon us! The Holy Spirit given to us at Baptism never leaves us. No matter what decisions we have made in life, God is still with us! God knows we try, but sometimes we get things wrong, and go our own way. But still the voice of God never leaves us,
“You are my Son, You are my daughter, my favour rests with you.”
So let us now go out and live our faith each day. Our Baptismal faith received the day we too we baptised.