1st Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday

In today’s Gospel we are reminded that sometimes the mission of spreading the Good News takes unexpected turns or hits snags. Word of of Our Lord’s miraculous healing abilities starts to spread despite his efforts, and now even when he goes off to a deserted place, people come looking. Our Lord has come to heal the sick and infirm, so why is he avoiding the crowds? In assuming human nature Our Lord works miracles, but also carries out his mission in a human way. If there’s a danger of being swamped, it has to be addressed, because it will hinder his mission, not help it.

The leper healed today was ecstatic over being healed, but did not work with Our Lord, and, inadvertently, worked against him. We forget sometimes that the Lord doesn’t just work flashy miraculous things in our lives: he gives us our existence, our daily bread, help against the evil in the world, and the truth that will set us free. Like the Israelites in today’s First Reading, many of the people seeking Our Lord in the desert wanted nothing other than a quick fix to an immediate problem, avoiding any other obligations or attachments. Just like the Israelites in today’s First Reading treated the ark of God (a.k.a. the ark of the covenant) as an automatic Win-the-Battle card, Our Lord knows those people in today’s Gospel have a deeper need that they are not addressing: the need for friendship and communion with God to be truly healed and whole.  The Israelites took God for granted one time too many, and Our Lord let them be defeated and lose the very sign of his presence among them to the Philistines to show them they had not been acting uprightly toward him. Our Lord heals those people who come to him, but he also knows that for many it will only be a band aid for something deeper to be addressed and changed in their lives, something he has come to address and to fix definitively.

We shouldn’t be discouraged when our own efforts to continue Our Lord’s mission hit snags or take unexpected turns. With Our Lord’s help, let’s be attentive to what others need in order to be cured–communion with God, not just getting caught up in addressing specific symptoms–a handout, a kind word, a helping hand. Let’s not neglect symptoms, but also focus on cures, spurred by compassion and aided by grace in imitation of Our Lord.

Readings: 1 Samuel 4:1–11; Psalm 44:10–11, 14–15, 24–25; Mark 1:40–45. See also Friday after Epiphany and 12th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.

1st Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

In today’s Gospel we see the first moments of Our Lord’s earthly ministry continuing to take shape. After an impressive demonstration of authority and power in the synagogue, he comes to Simon Peter’s house and heals his mother-in-law. Soon people are coming from all over the village, bringing the sick and those afflicted by demons so that Our Lord can heal them and liberate them from evil. Despite this success, he knows he can’t just stay in one village, but bring his teaching and power everywhere.

Good News spreads fast. Today we live in a society where the Good News has been spread far and wide, yet people don’t come to Our Lord for healing and liberation from the evil afflicting their lives. Why? We have a duty to spread the Good News, but that’s not just quoting the bible chapter and verse, but by giving testimony to the impact Our Lord has had on our own lives. Those crowds in the Gospel today would not have heard anything if Our Lord had not taught, healed, or exorcised someone they new. Our Lord does call to those people who haven’t experienced him yet, but, like Samuel in today’s First Reading, they need help to recognize who is speaking to him and to respond.

Take a moment today to take stock of what a positive impact Our Lord has made on you and your family, and don’t be afraid to share the Good News far and wide.

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:1–10, 19–20; Psalm 40:2, 5, 7–10; Mark 1:29–39. See also 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

1st Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

In today’s Gospel the crowds see something different in this young rabbi from Nazareth just starting his teaching. Why do his words have a weight to them that they didn’t find in their scribes? They bear the weight of truth. Something resonates in us when we hear the truth, and for the crowds in today’s Gospel they know Our Lord’s teaching rings true: it speaks to something in their hearts, be it a call to conversion or a confirmation of the upright life they’re trying to lead. We need the truth, and Our Lord is the truth in Person.

Society today focuses a lot on opinion, but often doesn’t go very deep. In today’s First Reading the priest Eli misjudges Hannah pouring our her heart to the Lord for drunkenness, and judges her accordingly. Eli soon found he was wrong, but if he hadn’t spoken up he would have never found out or joined his prayers to Hannah’s. Today many people don’t want to speak out at all for fear of being labelled as judgmental, but also, at times, out of a mistaken idea that two apparently irreconcilable beliefs can be true: everyone’s got their “truth” and nobody should question it. This attitude loses sight of the fact that there is a truth to everything, and we’re all seeking to understand it and embrace it in our lives. The Gospel brought to us by Our Lord brings that truth to us. It helps us cut through opinions that may veil untruths.

The Gospel today has been preached for millennia, but it’s the truth that sets us free. Let’s listen to Our Lord with renewed attention today through his Word, confident that it is the truth, and not be shy about helping others learn the truth as well.

Readings: 1 Samuel 1:9–20; 1 Samuel 2:1, 4–8d; Mark 1:21–28. See also 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

1st Week in Ordinary Time, Monday

In today’s Gospel we see that just as Our Lord continues to preach the message he entrusted to John the Baptist, so he begins to call the apostles who would learn it and transmit it to future generations. The readings remind today today that we all have a calling, and if we follow it we can achieve true fulfillment in life by working with Our Lord to help others receive the Gospel and be saved. Hannah in the First Reading is sad because she feels her calling to motherhood, but seems unable to achieve it. She loves her husband, but she knows a call to marriage is also a call to motherhood. Mothers are the first teachers of faith and love to their children.

When we sense a calling it strikes a chord in us, but as a vocation, not just for priests and consecrated persons, but for everyone, we know it not only appeals to our likes, but challenges us as well. If we feel challenged it is a sign that it comes from beyond us even though it seems it might suit us if we embrace it. John the Baptist knew prophets were also destined for martyrdom, but he didn’t shy away from his calling. Our Lord invites us to follow him in some way, and we are free to decline, but we’ll always see it as a missed opportunity if we do. Our Lord works with us to plan our lives and we should always be open to his input.

Ask Our Lord today to help you see the life you should lead. You won’t regret it.

Readings: 1 Samuel 1:1–8; Psalm 116:12–19; Mark 1:14–20.