Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1:16-18
Christmas season is now completed and we enter into the First Week of Ordinary Time. It’s time to return to the “ordinary” of life. But is the Christian life ordinary? Is there anything truly “ordinary” about following Jesus?
Today’s Gospel reveals the extraordinary and radical call from Jesus to follow Him. Simon and Andrew are the two who respond to the call in this passage, but their response is also an invitation to all of us to step out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.
This passage especially reveals two things: 1) the immediate response of these Apostles, and 2) their complete response. They clearly did not hold back or hesitate in responding to the invitation from Jesus to follow Him.
What about you? Do you hear Jesus calling you? Do you hear Him speak to you, calling you to come after Him? Hopefully, as our Lord speaks to each one of us, we will respond immediately and in a complete way. Hopefully we will not hesitate to embrace the glorious calling we each have been given.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that you, too, have been called to an extraordinary life of grace which requires total abandonment and commitment. You have been called to respond immediately and freely to Jesus’ invitation. As you begin this liturgical season of Ordinary Time, jump into the extraordinary life of grace and embrace it with your whole heart.
Lord, I love You and thank You for the extraordinary life of grace You have called me to live. Help me to respond to Your invitation with complete submission of my mind and will. Jesus, I trust in You.
Jesus’ Authority is Clear
Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. Mark 1:21-22
As we enter into this First Week of Ordinary Time, we are given the image of Jesus teaching in the synagogue. And as He teaches, it’s clear that there is something special about Him. He is one who teaches with a new authority.
This statement in Mark’s Gospel contrasts Jesus with the scribes who apparently teach without this unmistakable authority. This statement should not go unnoticed.
Jesus exercised His authority in His teaching not so much because He wanted to, but because He had to. This is who He is. He is God and when He speaks He speaks with the authority of God. He speaks in such a way that people know His words have transforming meaning. His words effect change in people’s lives.
This should invite each one of us to reflect upon the authority of Jesus in our lives. Do you notice His authority spoken to you? Do you see His words, spoken in Sacred Scripture, having an effect upon your life?
Reflect, today, upon this image of Jesus teaching in the synagogue. Know that the “synagogue” represents your own soul and that Jesus desires to be there speaking to you with authority. Let His words sink in and change your life.
The Purpose of Jesus’ Mission
Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” Mark 1:35-38
Why did Jesus come? What was the purpose of His life on Earth? This passage reveals that He came to preach to all people the Good News.
But do understand that statement properly. This does not mean that Jesus’ life is only about what He taught. It’s not as if He were a great man of wisdom who came to share His wisdom with us. Though that statement is true, it fails to reveal the full truth of Jesus and His mission.
So what was He all about? He was about preaching Himself as THE Truth that is spoken. Jesus IS the full revelation of the Father in Heaven and is the revelation of Truth. Therefore, Jesus’ statement means that He came to share Himself, in His fullness, with all people. He came to share Himself with those He preached to, literally, as He traveled from village to village. It means that He continues to share Himself with all of us every time we listen to and receive His Living Word: The Living Word of His very life.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that Jesus desires to “travel” to the village of your mind and heart. He wants to seek you out and bring not only His words of eternal life, but also His very self. Let yourself be ministered to by Jesus and allow Him to speak to you with clarity and truth.
It’s About Conversion, Not Popularity
Thursday of the First Week of Ordinary Time
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere. Mark 1:44-45
The man who went away and “began to publicize the whole matter” did so understandably. He had been suffering from the awful disease of leprosy and most likely was losing hope. He came to Jesus, knelt down humbly before Him and expressed his profound faith. He said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus, of course, did wish to make him clean and immediately healed the leper.
What’s interesting is that, after healing the man, Jesus told him not to tell anyone. But, in his excitement, the man went off telling everyone. The result was that Jesus’ fame and reputation exploded and curiosity about Him spread everywhere. People sought Him out with such interest that, as this passage says above, “It was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.”
This story should naturally raise a few questions in our minds. One interesting fact to ponder is that Jesus appeared to have no interest in being “popular.” He could have easily went from town to town and, as He entered a new town, announced, “Attention everyone…I am here!” People would have immediately flocked to Him. But, instead of embracing His instant fame, He went off to deserted places. People came to Him in these hard-to-get-to deserted places.
Jesus went off to deserted places waiting for people to seek Him out because His life was all about fostering authentic conversion of souls, not cultural popularity. He wasn’t interested in the esteem of worldly opinion, He was only interested in changing hearts. Therefore, by withdrawing into deserted places, He was able to let the Father in Heaven bring to Him those who were open to authentic conversion.
The same is true with us. The “popular Jesus” is not always the “real Jesus.” In other words, the authentic Gospel message is not normally that which our popular culture will hold up as exciting. Jesus and His authentic Gospel message will not always make headlines in the national news. Rather, if we want to find Him, we must diligently seek Him in the hidden and quiet places where He waits for us.
Reflect, today, upon the image of Jesus waiting for you in the silence. Where is that silent “deserted place” in which He waits? Where is He waiting for you to come and meet Him? Seek Him out and when you do discover Him, you will be eternally grateful that you made the effort.
Lord, I do seek You, but I also realize that I never seek You enough. You are there, waiting for me in countless ways. You are calling me into a deeper silence and solitude. In the deserted places of life, You desire to minister to my soul. Help me to listen to You and to make the journey to You. And as I find You, help me to truly embrace the conversion of heart You have in mind for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Draw of Jesus
Friday of the First Week of Ordinary Time
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. Mark 2:1-2
There were so many people coming to Jesus that there was no room for everyone, not even around the door to the house He was in. This is an interesting situation. On a practical note, why wouldn’t Jesus have noticed this dilemma and done something about it? Why not move out into a larger area where everyone could see and hear Him?
It’s hard to answer that question but there is one thing of which we can be certain. We can be certain that those who came to listen to Him, even if they could not get in, were greatly rewarded for their faith. This passage reveals a very important spiritual principle. It reveals that the spiritual longing to be near Jesus was, in and of itself, transforming.
Often times we will have a similar experience. We may find that we long to hear Jesus speak to us, but we cannot seem to hear Him. It may be that He appears silent to us or that we do not know where to find Him. But do not be disheartened if this is your experience. The fact of the matter is that your desire to be with Him is itself a great gift and has potential to transform your life.
Reflect, today, upon what may be termed “the silence of God.” There may be times in your life when God seems to be distant and is nowhere to be found. When this happens, you should realize that this is a way for God to call you even closer to Himself. It’s a way for God to whisper so as to gain your full attention. If this is a “struggle” that you experience at times, turn your attention to our Lord all the more intensely and allow the desire for Him to grow. It is this desire to be near Jesus that may actually produce much greater fruit in your life than if you were to hear Him loud and clear.
Lord, please increase within me a desire to be near You. Help me to long for You with all my heart. In that longing, help me to shed all that is not of You and to give You my full attention. Jesus, I trust in You.
With Whom Do You Associate?
Saturday of the First Week of Ordinary Time
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said to them, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Mark 2:16-17
Jesus did it, how about you? Are you willing to be seen with those who are “sinners?” What’s interesting to note about this passage from Scripture is that EVERYONE is a sinner. Therefore, the truth is that everyone Jesus associated with was a sinner.
But this passage and criticism of Jesus was not so much about Him associating with people who had committed sins; rather, it was more about Him associating with those who were looked down upon by the elite of society. Jesus freely spent time with the “undesirables.” He was not afraid to be seen with those who were scorned by others. The scribes and Pharisees were very quick to notice that Jesus and His disciples welcomed these people. They ate and drank with tax collectors, sexual sinners, thieves and the like. More than that, they apparently welcomed these people without judgment.
So back to the initial question…Are you willing to be seen with and associate with those who are unpopular, dysfunctional, hurting, confused, and the like? Are you willing to let your reputation suffer because you love and care for those in need? Are you even willing to go so far as to befriend someone who will damage your social reputation?
Reflect, today, upon the person in your life that you may feel like shunning. Why is that? Who is it that you may not want to be seen with or who you may not readily want to associate with. It may be the case that this person, more than any other, is the person that Jesus wants you to spend time with.
Lord, You love all people with a deep and perfect love. You came, especially, for those whose lives were broken and sinful. Help me to always seek out those who are in need and to love all people with an unwavering and non-judgmental love. Jesus, I trust in You.
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