| Jb 7:1-4, 6-7
|| Ps 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
|| 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23
|| Mk 1:29-39
Suffering and service
During Ordinary time, the Lectionary readings invite us to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. Today’s readings ask the believing community and RCIA participants to think about the human condition and a disciple’s response.
In the first reading from the book of Job, the author attempts to understand and to explain why innocent people suffer. In the author’s time (seventh-to-fifth century BC), Jewish thought focused on God’s otherness—God is not like humans. The author concludes that God is beyond human understanding. Human suffering has a divine purpose humans can’t know. For Christians, Jesus’ incarnation means God has become human. Jesus answers Job’s question through Jesus’ transformative life, death, and resurrection. Today’s gospel shows that God is knowable, present, and engaged in human life; someone who also suffers, heals, and saves.
In the second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul considers his right to be supported by the community to which he preaches. Paul’s service of the good news is a repeated choice or commitment, not a one-time decision. He freely chooses to be in slavery “to all” so that he might reach more people (to save them). Paul preaches about what he believes, and, in doing so, hopes to share in the promises of the good news.
In the gospel, Mark concludes Jesus’ first day of ministry: Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law, Jesus ministers to the whole town, and his disciples forget why he came:
- Simon’s mother-in-law. On arriving at Simon’s house, Jesus and the disciples find Simon’s mother-in-law too sick to perform the traditional demands of first-century hospitality. Jesus’ touch heals her. As proof that she is healed, she fulfills her obligation of hospitality by “serving them.” The Greek verb διακονέω (dee-ah-koh-NEH-oh), root of the English word “deacon,” means “to serve” or “to wait on.” Simon’s mother-in-law embodies the ideal disciple as someone in service to others–a point that disciples James and John miss (see Mk 10:43).
- All who were ill or possessed. As the Baptizer foretold in Mk 1:7-8, Jesus comes with power and authority preaching and healing. Jesus’ power/authority to heal breaks evil’s hold on this world and displaces demons, which makes room for God’s kingdom. The Greek verb θεραπεύω (theh-rah-PYOO-oh), root of the English word “therapy,” means “to serve” or “to heal.” Its use here implies that Jesus did not simply heal, but spent time ministering to each person.
- Everyone wants you. The reason that Jesus came was to preach God’s kingdom (Mk 1:14-15). Jesus’ healings were just a small part of his ministry. Unfortunately, Peter, Andrew, James, and John (and everyone else) want to promote Jesus’ powerful acts above his message of salvation. Jesus reminds them why he came: to tell everyone that the time is fulfilled, God is near, and to change their hearts and minds.
Today’s readings display how far we have progressed in our understanding of suffering. The believing community and RCIA participants find Job searching for a reason and encounter Jesus proclaiming an answer in words and actions. Job experiences God as a distant power and wisdom; Simon’s mother-in-law and Capernaum’s suffering people experience Jesus’ physical touch and personal attention. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus transforms the meaning of suffering. As disciples, Jesus calls us to continue his individual service and ministry to make God near to everyone. Where do we drive out today’s demons? How do we heal those who suffer? How do we serve to make others whole?
||Ps 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
||1 Cor 2:1-5
Tasting and seeing discipleship
During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. The gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. This week’s readings focus on the results of discipleship.
In the first reading the prophet Isaiah warns that fasting alone does not change a person or create a just world. In Hebrew scripture, the prophets call the Jewish people to be “a light to the nations.” The Jewish people’s metanoia (change of mind/heart) and resulting social actions become a light that will draw the gentiles to God. Jesus makes a similar point about disciples in today’s gospel.
The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Last week, Paul targeted the Corinthian’s exclusivity: they think too highly of themselves. This week, Paul tells the Corinthians to search for something wiser than human wisdom. God’s mysterious wisdom is unavailable to worldly-wisdom seekers. God’s mystery is known only to God; it is God’s plan of salvation and involves Jesus and the cross. Paul doesn’t appeal to philosophy, but rather the truth of God’s Spirit and God’s power.
Matthew’s gospel continues Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. Today Jesus gives two parables about discipleship. When living the beatitudes (Jesus’ new law), disciples become salt and light.
- Salt: The ancient world used salt to season and to preserve food. Just as salt changes the taste of food, a disciple’s life changes the world. That is, a disciple who is poor in spirit, mourns evil, practices humility, hungers after justice, shows mercy, single-mindedly seeks God, makes peace, and endures persecution becomes a living example of God’s kingdom.
- Light: In Hebrew scripture, the prophets call the Jewish people to be “a light to the nations” (Is 60:1-3, Bar 4:2); in today’s first reading (Is 58:7-10), the Lord tells the returning exiles to care for others so “your light will break like the dawn” and “the light shall rise from you.” Jesus’ parable is in this prophetic tradition: now his disciples are a light to the nations. As a lamp reveals everything it shines on, so a disciple’s life becomes a beacon or example to everyone.
By adding the parables of salt and light at the end of the beatitudes, Matthew provides a “call to action” for disciples. Discipleship is not simply a relationship between Jesus and a disciple, but a relationship that extends from the disciple to the world. Through the disciple’s own actions and attitudes, the world experiences Jesus’ and the Father’s love.
Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to consider how our lives reflect discipleship. Do our actions and attitudes align with the beatitudes? Do our daily interactions leave others seasoned or soured? Do our words and examples enlighten or darken others’ lives?
|Is 6:1-2a, 3-8
||Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 7-8
||1 Cor 15:1-11
The call to walk with God
During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings ask RCIA participants and all of us to reflect on our call to discipleship.
The first reading describes Isaiah’s call to be a prophet. Isaiah’s vision and call takes place in Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. He sees God enthroned in glory and is suddenly aware of his own weaknesses and limitations (“a man of unclean lips.”). The angel’s purifying ember cleanses Isaiah and prepares him to accept God’s call: “Here I am, send me!”
The second reading describes Paul’s call to be an apostle to the gentiles. Paul writes to his beloved but exasperating Corinthians because some members say that Jesus’ resurrection didn’t happen. In his letter, Paul repeats his teaching about Jesus: “Christ died, he was buried, he was raised on the third day.” This ancient formula came from Paul’s Jerusalem visit in 35 AD. Paul affirms his own traditions about Jesus (“what I also received”) as well as quoting proof texts from the Hebrew scripture that foretold Jesus (“in accordance with the scriptures”). Paul then cites eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus–“Kephas (Peter), the twelve, over five hundred disciples at once, James, all the apostles,” and finally Paul himself. Paul traces his call to his encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:3-6).
Luke’s gospel describes Jesus’ call of Peter, James, and John to be his disciples. Jesus precedes their call with signs that he is the messiah:
- Teaching: Jesus “sat down and taught” the crowds. Luke places Jesus in the traditional posture of a Greek philosopher, a signal to his gentile readers that Jesus is an important teacher. The crowds–including the fishermen–listen to Jesus teach “the word of God.” Jesus fulfills his messianic mission, announced in last week’s reading, “to preach the good news.”
- Wondrous deed: Jesus tells Peter to “put out to the deep and lower your nets.” The fishermen catch so many fish that their nets are breaking and their boats are filled. Jesus’ mighty deed creates a superabundance that fulfills scripture. Through the prophets, God promised a new covenant in which God would exceed the people’s needs. The prophets described this new covenant as a feast that included fish. The plethora of fish indicates the messiah is present.
Peter, James, and John are now ready to hear Jesus’ request: they put everything aside and walk the path of Jesus.
Today’s readings remind us that God calls each of us to share God’s life. RCIA participants are still discerning God’s call; we in the believing community must continue to listen. God prepares each of us to hear the call–sometimes dramatically, sometimes in quiet ways; sometimes through scripture’s teachings, sometimes through mighty acts; over and over until we are ready to hear it. God calls us each by name. The call is there, even if we don’t want to hear it. Can we put everything–including ourselves–aside? Do we want to walk God’s path, or our own?