Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday of the First Week in ordinary Time

(I Samuel 1:1-8; Mark 1:14-20)

When St. John Paul II was elected pope, he said that the celebration of the new millennium would be the hallmark of his papacy.  He then methodically carried out a program with synods in all parts of the world, apologies for the crimes of church people throughout the centuries, and finally the great events of the year 2000.  We see Jesus in the gospel today working with as much deliberation.

Jesus has just been baptized in the Jordan and tested in the desert.  Now he begins his ministry.  He preaches his basic message: salvation is at hand; accept it by opening your lives to the Lord. Then he calls followers whom he will train to continue preaching the message.  Three observations are in order.  First, Jesus dispenses with the custom of the time of disciples seeking out a teacher.  Jesus personally chooses his followers.  Second, Jesus chooses simple fishermen, not students for his following.  Scholars like Paul will preach the gospel in time, but for now Jesus wants men who know how to seek out those who are hidden.  Finally, his call is urgent.  There is no time for followers to discern a call.  He demands that they come at once.

Today we begin what the Church calls “Ordinary Time.”  The phrase comes from the fact that the period is categorized by weeks with ordinary numbers – first, second, third, etc.  We hear the term as indicating nothing special.  Perhaps that is a sufficient way of thinking about it.  Ordinary Time represents the opportunity to open our lives to God’s love as Jesus preaches it in the gospel today.  But our response does not have to be immediate.  Rather we should make a deliberate decision to follow him.  But to follow him means that we bring his message to others by manifesting God’s love everywhere.