In the Gospel for Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of God. It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade” (Mark 4:32-33). Jesus could have chosen the majestic cedar to illustrate the reign of God. Instead he chooses a common garden bush. The reign of God is as amazing as a mustard bush growing so large even birds perch in it. Jesus’ death and resurrection inaugurated the reign of God. God continues to do amazing things in unexpected ways: the birth of a baby, recovery from cancer, laughter amidst grief, long time fidelity of spouses and friends, and more. How has God amazed you?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus explains the purpose of his parables. He compares their lessons to a lamp. “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear” (Mark 4: 21b-23). One sets a lamp where it sheds the most light. Jesus proclaims the good news of the reign of God for all to hear. I wonder how well I listen. My hearing has improved since I got hearing aids. Listening to the voice of Jesus is another matter. Jesus speaks through the Sunday readings and homily, my wife’s honesty, my sons’ expressions of love, my neighbors’ kind words, and other expressions of God’s loving care. I get distracted by the voices of criticism, jealousy, anxiety, violence, and other negative messages. I pray for Jesus to help me better hear and proclaim his good news. How is your hearing?
In the Gospel for the Day of Prayer for Legal Protection of the Unborn, Jesus sought some quiet time on the Sea of Galilee. “Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him” (Mark 3: 8-9). Jesus needs some peace and quiet from the demands of his ministry. He sails with his disciples out to sea. Even Jesus needed a break. So do his disciples today. Christians are vulnerable to a super hero or heroine mentality. We feel obligated to always be doing God’s work. God wants us to take time for rest and relaxation. How do you find some peace and quiet?
In the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Jesus cures the man with a withered hand. The Pharisees scornfully watch him for healing on the Sabbath. “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 3:5). Jesus heals the sick. He also softens hard hearts with love and compassion. I struggle with a hard heart of jealousy. I am jealous my neighbors have more time and money for lawn work, trips, and leisure activities. I think my jealousy indicates more about me than them. I pray for God’s grace to heal my jealousy with compassion for myself and others. I become more aware of the common humanity I share with others in Christ. I am also empowered by the grace of God for gratitude for others’ blessings and my own. How can God soften your heart?
In the Gospel for Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, the Pharisees criticize the disciples for working on the sabbath. “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?’ He said to them … ‘That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath’ (Mark 2: 23, 27).” Christians observe Sunday, the Lord’s Day, as the sabbath. Celebrating the Lord’s Day reminds us how much we depend on God for everything. Taking stock of God’s blessings on Sunday helps us acknowledge God’s providence throughout the week. So everyday can be a sabbath day. Everyday we can honor God who takes such good care of us. For what do you depend on God?
In the Gospel for Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus forgives and heals the paralytic. ” ‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth’–he said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.’ He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this’ (Mark 2: 10-12).” Jesus continues to forgive and heal through us, the Church. The Sacraments of Anointing of the Sick and Reconciliation celebrate Jesus’ healing and forgiving power. Alive in Christ, his disciples strive to heal broken relationships through forgiveness and compassion. For a healthy relationship spouses and close friends learn to forgive themselves and one another. Parents forgive their children as their children forgive them. Enemies need to resolve their differences by forgiveness instead of violence. Loving forgiveness can accomplish amazing things. Whom does God want you to forgive?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus cures a leper. “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’ The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean” (Mark 1: 41-42). Jesus feels overwhelming compassion for the sick man. With loving care for the leper, Jesus cures him. Jesus empowers his disciples to do the same. He wants us to have compassion for the sick, disadvantaged, lonely, oppressed, and others in need of healing. Empowered by the compassion of Jesus, disciples take action to relieve the suffering others. A disciple accompanies a chronically ill friend to medical appointments, visits a homebound neighbor, feeds and clothes a homeless person, lobbies elected officials for just laws, and more. How can you help someone suffering today for whom you have compassion?
In the Gospel for Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law. “Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them” (Mark 1:30-31). Peter’s mother-in-law is a model of Christian discipleship. Healed from her ailment, she attended to her guests. Jesus’ love heals us. His love frees us to love others. The love he gives us he wants us to share with others. We wait on others with a kind word, a visit, a meal, a prayer, a protest of injustice, and other acts of love. Healed by God’s love, Christians give of themselves in loving service to those in need. How has God healed you for loving service?
In the Gospel for Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus heals a man possessed by a demon. “He cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!’ Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him” (Mark 1: 24-26). Jesus continues to work healing miracles through us, the Church. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick celebrates God’s healing power. We all know people in our families and communities who are overwhelmed by fear, addictions, abuse, illness, grief and other afflictions. Christ wants us to help those who seem possessed by these evil forces. Loving them for Jesus’ sake offers comfort and hope. Whom do you know needs healing from an oppressive condition or situation?
In the Gospel for Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, Jesus calls the disciples. “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). Jesus invited fishermen to follow him. They had no other qualifications than their desire to follow Jesus. Jesus expected them as his disciples to use their skills and experiences as fisherman. Jesus continues to call disciples. Jesus invites us to follow him. Jesus wants us to use our gifts and talents. We do not need special qualifications, outstanding piety, or heroic virtue. We only have to accept his invitation to put ourselves in loving service to those in need. How are you responding to Jesus’ invitation?