Keith J. Hollis, O.S.A.
Jon 3: 1-5, 10
Ps 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
1 Cor 7: 29-31
Mk 1: 14-20
As the Christmas and holiday seasons close, all of us, in some form or another, are trying to get back on track. Back to routines, resolutions, packing things away, and resume life as usual. It is a time to begin a new year and to renew resolutions and make new promises in the hopes to make this year different. A time to get back to “normal” or even the basics. To keep things simple. It is also a time to turn our attention to spiritual practices long forgotten, and give fresh attention to what matters in life, to what we really value, and to make choices in life based on our spiritual goal and highest faith principles. It might be a time for personal renewal and to help our lives be centered on what matters most to us. Yet as Christians we know that it is not just be about us. Our faith will challenge us to consider the good of others. So, this Sunday in Ordinary time gives us a new chance to rise to a new challenge which is both personal and communal.
In simplistic terms, Ordinary time has two seasons. One after the Baptism of the Lord, the conclusion of Christmas, and two, the time right after Easter. The season, no matter how long or short gives us new chances to make Christ the center of our lives. Each phase of Ordinary time has a unique focus, tone and length of time and allows us to use the ordinary of everyday life as a chance for concern to see Christ in all things and the plights of others. God provides the invitation, we need to respond!
This is what we find in the Gospel! For the apostles Andrew, James and John, Jesus calls them from their ordinary lives to a profound invitation from their former lives. In trust, they accept their new role, focus, promise, and their new hope to start over. Jesus asks them to leave behind what was familiar and enter the unknown with trust and faith. They were called to make a commitment to Christ. Whatever plan, profession, and good intention they had for their own lives, Jesus comes and offers them his plan, his purpose, his resolve, to leave the ordinary behind and enter into a new relationship filled with new possibilities. Jesus comes to call us out of ourselves and to be made available for the chance to make our life and commitment to Christ visible for others.
It is quite clear, building from last week’s Gospel from John, and this Sunday’s selection from Mark, that “Ordinary” time has little to do with resolutions and resolves, but rather with commitments, practices and actions that are truly life-giving and life changing. A life of committed discipleship has many surprises! Our faith challenges to make commitments to Christ and to follow our faith with honesty and intent and to strive to follow him more closely.
Rabbi Harold Kushner writes in his book, Who Needs God, that “religion is not primarily a set of beliefs, a collection of prayers or merely a series of rituals. Religion is a commitment, a response to his call to see things in a new way.” He continues, “It can’t on its own change the facts of the harsh world we live in, but it can change the way we look at those facts and that can make all the difference.”
We pray and worship as a community of believers to see how the world can be a better place, and respond with kindness, modesty, respect, heart-felt compassion– all after the example and command of Christ. As baptized Christians, marked, signed, and sealed by the Holy Spirit we have a style, a gift, a grace, and a life that flows from modeling the example of Jesus of Nazareth. Christian commitment is a radical view of life and it dares from us a response, a real turn, a change of heart, and honest commitment.
Our response can make all the difference in the world and its benefits are timeless and eternal! The world tells us to seek after what we want and happiness at any cost; Jesus saw happiness in mourning. The world values power over others; Jesus praised the meek and small. The world encourages self-fulfillment; Jesus told us to work for justice. The world says that the merciless succeed; Jesus proclaimed to seek mercy. The world announces look out for #1 and go for the gold at any cost; Jesus taught us to keep our hearts on fire to love. The world seems to honor the winners of wars; Jesus celebrated peacemakers. The world sees the persecuted, the lonely, afflicted and addicted as losers; Jesus declared the survivors of them all as winners. If only we accept the call of Christ today as the apostles did long ago. So, now, what about us?
This year presents us as individuals with opportunities to improve, change, and make promises. Our faith demands to change the world around us. How will 2018 change us? How will we change 2018? How will we change our times? How will our faith make a difference? What is holding us back from accepting his invitation this day, this week, this month, this year knowing that the greatest among us are always the ones who serve the rest!