Second Week in Ordinary Time

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Behold, the Lamb of God!

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  John 1:29

Saint John the Baptist speaks these words about Jesus at the moment that he sees Jesus coming to him in the distance. John knew, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was the “Lamb of God.” He knew, by this interior revelation, that Jesus would become the Sacrificial Lamb Who would lay down His life for the salvation of the world. Perhaps John did not know the details of how this would happen, but he didn’t need to. He was content knowing this sacred mission of the Messiah, and he was content knowing that Jesus was that Messiah.

Today, as we ponder John’s words, we are able to see them more clearly. Jesus is the One Who gave His life on the Cross for the remission of sins. He is the One Whom we now receive sacramentally in Holy Communion as the “Lamb of God.” It is His flesh and His blood, poured out for us, that we now consume with the deepest reverence and love.

At Mass, these are the final words spoken by the priest after the consecration and prior to Holy Communion. Every time we participate in the Holy Mass, we relive this moment in which John saw our Lord coming to Him.

As we begin this season of Ordinary Time, we are invited to come to know this Lamb of God more fully through His many teachings, miracles and actions done during His public ministry. In the Liturgy of the Word at every Mass, we are called to unpack these words of John, coming to understand the mystery of the life of Christ more fully. And through our participation in the reception of Holy Communion, we come to know Him Who is the Lamb of God in the most personal and intimate of ways, when we enter into holy union (Holy Communion) with Him.

Reflect, today, upon these very familiar words of Saint John the Baptist. As you do, begin by prayerfully pondering the knowledge that John might have had about Christ the first time he saw Him. Why did John say these words? How fully did he understand their meaning? Did he know that his words would be echoed throughout time? As you prayerfully ponder the interior knowledge that John might have had at that time, try also to reflect upon all that we now know about these holy words. Reflect especially upon the suffering and death of the Lamb of God and the way in which He has transmitted His Saving Sacrifice to us in Holy Communion. What a gift! What a mystery! What a joy! Behold the Lamb of God within your heart, mind and soul, and prayerfully seek to know Him more fully this day.

Glorious Lamb of God, You have come and taken away the sins of the world through the sacrifice of Your sacred life on the Cross. Please help me to understand Who You are and all that You have done for me, especially every time I come to behold You and receive You in Holy Communion. Jesus, I trust in You.

Being a Witness of Christ

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —. Then he brought him to Jesus. John 1:40–42

Andrew was a follower of Saint John the Baptist until John directed him to Jesus. One day John saw Jesus walk by and pointed to Jesus, telling Andrew and another disciple, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples followed after Jesus. After spending the day with Jesus, Andrew was so impressed that the next day he excitedly went to find his brother, Simon Peter, to tell him about Jesus. As is mentioned in the passage above, he enthusiastically tells Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” Then, once Peter meets Jesus, Peter also becomes His disciple.

A similar experience occurs between the brothers Philip and Nathanael (see John 1:43–51). Jesus calls Philip to follow Him, and he does. After coming to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, Philip goes to tell his brother Nathanael that he has found “the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets.” Nathanael believes and follows our Lord. Thus, a series of conversions began after John the Baptist gave testimony that Jesus was the “Lamb of God.”

Though we can be certain that Jesus did not need the testimony of John the Baptist to convert Andrew, nor the testimony of Andrew to convert Simon Peter, nor the testimony of Philip to convert Nathanael, this is how it happened. Jesus chose to use these three to bring about the conversion of others.

In God’s divine plan of salvation, He regularly uses the mediation of others to bring forth the conversion of hearts. We see this on many levels. First and foremost, He uses our Blessed Mother as the Mediatrix of Grace to bring forth His grace upon us all. She is the instrument and Jesus is the source. Through her mediation, there are other saints who act as intercessors. And there are countless angels who also act as distributors of God’s grace and mercy. God is the source of all but uses the heavenly hosts to bring forth His grace upon us all.

The same is true within our earthly existence. In addition to the numerous angels and saints who act as intercessors and mediators, God uses each one of us to bring about His Kingdom here and now in the lives of many. Every time we speak God’s words or witness to God through our actions, we become instruments of God’s mercy. And if we fully commit ourselves to the divine will, there are many who will be converted by God’s grace through us.

Reflect, today, upon the holy and sacred calling you have received to act as a mediator of God’s infinite grace and mercy. First, think about the many people God wants to touch through you. Also think about the fact that those people might never be drawn to God if you fail to act. God can do all things and touch many people in varied ways, but the fact remains that He does want to use you for His mission. Say “Yes” to that mission so that you, like many others, will share in the glorious calling of being an intercessor and a mediator of God’s grace.

Most glorious Lord, You are abundantly generous in Your grace and mercy and desire to bestow Your love on all people. Please use me for Your divine mission of evangelizing the world. I say “Yes” to You, dear Lord. Use me as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.

The Book of Signs

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him. John 2:11

John’s Gospel is commonly divided into four sections: the Prologue, the Book of Signs, the Book of Glory and the Epilogue (which contains the resurrection appearance in Galilee). Today’s Gospel comes from the beginning of the Book of Signs, which begins at Chapter 1:19 and continues through Chapter 12. In this section, the Apostle John presents us with seven “signs,” which are seven miracles Jesus performed. Each sign has a deeper spiritual meaning that reveals Jesus’ divinity and mission. In many ways, the entire Book of Signs prepares us for the Book of Glory in which Jesus’ “hour” of glory is identified with Him taking up His glorious throne of the Cross, fulfilling His mission as the “Lamb of God” Who offers His life for the salvation of all, and pouring forth His grace and mercy from His wounded side.

The first of seven signs Jesus performs in John’s Gospel is the changing of water into wine at the Wedding of Cana, which was done in superabundance! The six stone jars, filled to the brim with water, were transformed into as much as 180 gallons of the finest wine. The changing of water into wine was done at the request of Jesus’ mother, who told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do.

There is certainly much to ponder in this incredible miracle. One specific thing to consider, as we begin reading the first of these signs, is that Jesus uses His miracles to prepare His disciples for the “hour” of grace and glory that is to come. And though the hour of Jesus has already taken place in time, it’s important to understand that each one of us needs to go through the process of preparing for that hour in our own lives. We must let Christ continuously prepare us for the hour of glory by which we receive Him and all the grace He won for us on the Cross. This preparation will take place in our lives, just as it was presented in John’s Gospel. Jesus’ seven signs, His miraculous actions, were performed to prepare His disciples to receive all that He bestowed on the Cross. We must not only prayerfully reflect upon these signs as recorded by John throughout the year, we must also look for the many personal signs that our Lord gives to each one of us.

Just as the participants at the Wedding of Cana were left in amazement at the miracle of Jesus, so we must allow ourselves to become continuously amazed at His action in our lives. The seven signs that are recorded in Scripture, as well as the effect of our spiritual pondering of them, must become beacons of light that prepare us to come to know our Lord more fully and to receive the grace won by His Cross of glory.

Reflect, today, upon this, the first of Jesus’ signs. Try to meditate upon this story as a way of preparing yourself to receive His grace more fully in your life. Think of the superabundance of the miracle and ponder the fact that it points to the superabundance of grace God wants to give you. Reflect, also, upon the fact that it took place by the intercession of Jesus’ dear mother. She also will anticipate your needs and pray for you with her motherly heart. Ponder the beautiful meaning and symbolism in this passage so that you will more fully share in God’s abundant glory.

My glorious Lord, Your entire earthly life was a preparation for the hour in which You gave Your life as a sacrifice on the Cross for the remission of sins. Please continuously prepare me to receive You more fully and to open my heart to You and all that You have bestowed upon me through Your perfect sacrifice of love. Jesus, I trust in You.

To Fast or Not to Fast

Monday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time

“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.” Mark 2:19–20

The passage above reveals Jesus’ response to the disciples of John the Baptist and some Pharisees who question Jesus about fasting. They point out that the disciples of John and the Pharisees each follow the Jewish laws on fasting, but Jesus’ disciples do not. Jesus’ answer goes to the heart of the new law on fasting.

Fasting is a wonderful spiritual practice. It helps to strengthen the will against disordered fleshly temptations and helps to bring purity to one’s soul. But it needs to be pointed out that fasting is not an eternal reality. One day, when we are face-to-face with God in Heaven, there will no longer be any need to fast or do any form of penance. But while on earth, we will struggle and fall and lose our way, and one of the best spiritual practices to help us return to Christ is prayer and fasting combined.

Fasting becomes necessary “when the bridegroom is taken away.” In other words, fasting is necessary when we sin and our union with Christ begins to fade. It is then that the personal sacrifice of fasting helps open our hearts once again to our Lord. This is especially true when habits of sin form and become deeply ingrained. Fasting adds much power to our prayer and stretches our souls so as to be able to receive the “new wine” of God’s grace where we need it the most.

Reflect, today, upon your approach to fasting and other penitential practices. Do you fast? Do you make regular sacrifices so as to strengthen your will and help you to turn more fully to Christ? Or has this healthy spiritual practice been somewhat neglected in your life? Renew your commitment to this holy endeavor today and God will work powerfully in your life.

Lord, I open my heart to the new wine of grace that You wish to pour forth upon me. Help me to be properly disposed to this grace and to use every means necessary to become more open to You. Help me, especially, to commit to the wonderful spiritual practice of fasting. May this act of mortification in my life bear abundant fruit for Your Kingdom. Jesus, I trust in You.

Keeping Holy the Sabbath

Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” Mark 2:23–24

The Pharisees were greatly concerned about many things that were distortions of the law of God. The Third Commandment calls us to “Keep holy the Sabbath Day.” Furthermore, we read in Exodus 20:8–10 that we are not to do any work on the Sabbath but are to use that day for rest. From this Commandment, the Pharisees developed extensive commentary on what was permitted and what was forbidden to do on the Sabbath. They determined that picking the heads of grain was one of the forbidden actions.

In many countries today, the Sabbath rest has all but disappeared. Sadly, Sunday is rarely set aside any longer for a day of worship and rest with family and friends. For that reason, this hypercritical condemnation of the disciples by the Pharisees is hard to relate to. The deeper spiritual issue seems to be the hyper “nitpicky” approach taken by the Pharisees. They were not so much concerned about honoring God on the Sabbath as they were interested in being judgmental and condemning. And though it may be rare today to find people overly scrupulous and nitpicky about the Sabbath rest, it’s often easy to find ourselves becoming nitpicky about many other things in life.

Consider your family and those who are closest to you. Are there things they do and habits they have formed that leave you constantly criticizing them? Sometimes we criticize others for actions that are clearly contrary to the laws of God. At different times, we criticize others on account of some exaggeration of fact on our part. Though it is important to speak charitably against violations of the external law of God, we must be very careful not to set ourselves up as the judge and jury of others, especially when our criticism is based on a distortion of the truth or an exaggeration of something minor. In other words, we must be careful not to become nitpicky ourselves.

Reflect, today, upon any tendency you have in your relationships with those closest to you toward being excessive and distorted in your criticism. Do you find yourself obsessing over the apparent minor faults of others on a regular basis? Try to step back from criticism today and renew, instead, your practice of mercy toward all. If you do, you may actually discover that your judgments of others do not fully reflect the truth of God’s law.

My merciful Judge, give me a heart of compassion and mercy toward all. Remove from my heart all judgmentalness and criticalness. I leave all judgment to You, dear Lord, and seek only to be an instrument of Your love and mercy. Jesus, I trust in You.

Grieved at the Hardness of Heart

Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent. Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. Mark 3:4–5

Sin damages our relationship with God. But hardness of heart is even more damaging because it perpetuates the damage done by sin. And the harder one’s heart, the more permanent the damage.

In the passage above, Jesus was angry with the Pharisees. Oftentimes the passion of anger is sinful, resulting from impatience and a lack of charity. But at other times, the passion of anger can be good when it is motivated by love of others and hatred for their sin. In this case, Jesus was grieved by the hardness of heart of the Pharisees, and that grief motivated His holy anger. His “holy” anger did not cause irrational criticism; rather, it drove Jesus to cure this man in the presence of the Pharisees so that they would soften their hearts and believe in Jesus. Sadly, it didn’t work. The very next line of the Gospel says, “The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death” (Mark 3:6).

Hardness of heart should be greatly avoided. The problem is that those who are hard of heart are usually not open to the fact that they are hard of heart. They are obstinate and stubborn, and oftentimes self-righteous. Therefore, when people suffer from this spiritual ailment, it is difficult for them to change, especially when confronted.

This Gospel passage offers you an important opportunity to look into your own heart with honesty. Only you and God need to be part of that interior introspection and conversation. Begin by reflecting upon the Pharisees and the poor example they set. From there, try to look at yourself with great honesty. Are you obstinate? Are you hardened in your convictions to the point that you are unwilling to even consider that you may be wrong at times? Are there people in your life with whom you have entered into a conflict that still remains? If any of this rings true, then you may indeed suffer from the spiritual ill of a hardened heart.

Reflect, today, upon your own soul and your relationships with others with as much honesty as possible. Do not hesitate to let your guard down and be open to what God may want to say to you. And if you detect even the slightest tendency toward a hardened and stubborn heart, beg our Lord to enter in to soften it. Change like this is difficult, but the rewards of such a change are incalculable. Do not hesitate and do not wait. Change is worth it in the end.

My loving Lord, this day I open myself to an examination of my own heart and pray that You will help me to always be open to change when necessary. Help me, especially, to see any hardness I may have within my heart. Help me to overcome any obstinacy, stubbornness and self-righteousness. Give me the gift of humility, dear Lord, so that my heart can become more like Yours. Jesus, I trust in You.

Single-Minded Devotion

Thursday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time

He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him. He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him. Mark 3:9–10

It’s fascinating to ponder the enthusiasm that so many people had toward Jesus. In the passage above, we see Jesus asked His disciples to have a boat ready for Him so that He would not be crushed as He taught the crowd. He had been curing many who were sick, and the crowd was pressing upon Him to try to simply touch Him.

This scene provides us with an illustration of what must happen within our interior lives regarding our Lord. The people can be said to have been single-minded in their devotion to Jesus and fervent in their desire for Him. Granted, their desire may have been somewhat selfishly motivated by the desire for physical cures of their ailments and those of their loved ones, but nonetheless, their attraction was real and powerful, driving them to put their complete focus upon our Lord.

Jesus’ choice to get into a boat and distance Himself a bit from the crowd was also an act of love. Why? Because this act allowed Jesus to help them refocus upon His deeper mission. Though He did miracles out of compassion and so as to manifest His almighty power, His primary focus was to teach people and to lead them into the full Truth of the message He was preaching. Therefore, by separating Himself from them, they were invited to listen to Him rather than just try to touch Him for the sake of a physical miracle. For Jesus, the spiritual wholeness He desired to give the crowd was of much greater significance than any physical healing He also gave.

In our own lives, Jesus may “separate” Himself from us in somewhat superficial ways so that we will be more open to the deeper and more transforming purpose of His life. For example, He may remove certain feelings of consolation or permit us to encounter some trial through which He seems to be less present to us. But when this happens, it is always so that we will turn to Him on a deeper level of trust and openness so as to be drawn more deeply into a relationship of love.

Reflect, today, upon how single-minded your devotion is to our Lord. From there, ponder, also, if you are more attached to the good feelings and consolations you seek or if your devotion is deeper, focused more on the transforming message our Lord wants to preach to you. See yourself on that shore, listening to Jesus speak, and allow His holy words to transform your life more deeply.

My saving God, I turn to You, this day, and seek to be single-minded in my love and devotion to You. Help me, first and foremost, to listen to Your transforming Word and to allow that Word to become the central focus of my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Confronting Evil with the Gospel

Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. Mark 3:14–15

The Twelve Apostles were first called by Jesus and then sent to preach with authority. The authority they were given was for the purpose of driving out demons. But how did they do that? It’s interesting to note that the authority they were given over demons was, in part, associated with their commission to preach. And though there are some recorded instances in the Scriptures of the Apostles driving out demons directly by command, it should also be understood that the preaching of the Gospel with the authority of Christ has a direct effect of driving out demons.

Demons are fallen angels. But even in their fallen state, they retain the natural powers they have, such as the power of influence and suggestion. They seek to communicate with us to deceive us and draw us away from Christ. The good angels, of course, also exercise this same natural power for our good. Our guardian angels, for example, constantly seek to communicate to us the truths of God and His grace. The angelic battle for good and evil is real, and as Christians we must be aware of this reality.

One of the greatest ways to confront satan and his demons is to listen to the Truth and to proclaim it with the authority of Christ. Though the Apostles were given a special authority for their preaching, every Christian, by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, is entrusted with the message of the Gospel to proclaim in various ways. And with that authority, we must constantly strive to bring forth the Kingdom of God. Doing so will have a direct impact on the diminishment of the kingdom of satan.

Reflect, today, upon your duty to share the Gospel with others. Sometimes this is done by an explicit sharing of the message of Jesus Christ, and at other times the message is shared more by our actions and virtue. But every Christian is entrusted with this mission and must learn to fulfill that mission with true authority, knowing that as that authority from Christ is exercised, the Kingdom of God increases and the activity of the evil one is overcome.

My all-powerful Lord, I thank You for the grace You have given me to proclaim the truth of Your saving message to those whom I encounter every day. Help me to fulfill my mission to preach in both word and deed and to do so with the gentle yet powerful authority given me by You. I offer myself to Your service, dear Lord. Do with me as You will. Jesus, I trust in You.

Being Misunderstood

Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus came with his disciples into the house.  Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat.  When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:20–21

When you consider the sufferings of Jesus, most likely your thoughts first turn to the crucifixion. From there, you may think about His scourging at the pillar, the carrying of the Cross and the other events that took place from the time of His arrest until His death. However, there were many other human sufferings that our Lord endured for our good and the good of all. The Gospel passage above presents us with one such experience.

Though physical pain is quite undesirable, there are other sufferings that can be just as difficult to endure, if not more difficult. One such suffering is being misunderstood and treated by your own family as if you were out of your mind. In Jesus’ case, it appears as if many of His extended family, not including His own mother of course, were quite vocally critical of Jesus. Perhaps they were jealous of Him and had some form of envy, or perhaps they were embarrassed by all the attention He was getting. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that Jesus’ own relatives tried to prevent Him from ministering to the people who deeply longed to be with Him. Some of His extended family members made up the story that Jesus was “out of his mind” and sought to put an end to His popularity.

Family life should be a community of love, but for some it becomes a source of sorrow and hurt. Why did Jesus allow Himself to endure this form of suffering? In part, to be able to relate with any and every suffering you endure as a result of your own family. Additionally, His endurance of it also redeemed this form of suffering, making it possible for your family hurt to share in that redemption and grace. Thus, when you turn to God in prayer with your family struggles, you will be consoled to know that the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, Jesus, the Eternal Son of God, understands your suffering from His own human experience. He knows the pain so many family members feel from first-hand experience. And He is able to look at every family suffering with the utmost compassion so as to give each person who asks the grace they need to not only endure that suffering but also to use it for good and for God’s glory.

Reflect, today, upon any way that you need to surrender some hurt within your own family over to God. Turn to our Lord Who fully understands your struggles and invite His powerful and compassionate presence into your life so that He can transform all that you endure into His grace and mercy.

My compassionate Lord, You endured much in this world, including the rejection and ridicule of those in Your own family. I offer to You my own family and especially the hurt that has been present. Please come and redeem all family struggles and bring healing and hope to me and to all those who need it the most. Jesus, I trust in You.

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