First Week of Ordinary Time: Jan. 7 - 13, 2018

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Alexander, Andy, S.J.
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"Jesus 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
First Week of Ordinary Time|For most of the world, January 6, is the celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord, although the US celebrates it this Sunday. That is why this year the closing feast of the Christmas Season, the Baptism of the Lord, is celebrated on Sunday, in most of the world, but in the U.S. it is moved to Monday.|Whether we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord on Sunday or Monday, we hear the Lord say in the first reading from Isaiah, "Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit." That is echoed in Luke's Gospel, after Jesus' baptism: "And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." This feast marks the end of the Christmas season. Monday or Tuesday begins Ordinary Time on the Church calendar which will continue until Ash Wednesday.|During the weekdays, we begin a three-week cycle of captivating readings from the First Book of Samuel. We read of Samuel's mother, Hannah, who promises the Lord, "if you give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the LORD for as long as he lives." Samuel hears a call from the Lord and responds, "Speak, for your servant is listening." An epic battle against the Philistines ends in devastating losses for Israel and the capture of the Ark of the Covenant. In his old age, Samuel rules Israel and the elders ask Samuel to appoint a King to rule them. Samuel meets Saul. "When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD assured him,"'This is the man of whom I told you; he is to govern my people.'"|From now until the beginning of Lent, the weekday gospels are from Mark's Gospel. Mark offers us a look at the beginning of Jesus public ministry. Jesus calls his first disciples, fisherman at work: Simon and Andrew, then James and John. "Then they left their nets and followed him." He drives out evil spirits and heals the sick. He hears the cry of the leper: "If you wish, you can make me clean," and Jesus, "moved with pity" heals him. Friends lower a paralytic from a roof down into the crowd in front of Jesus, who heals him and says, "Child, your sins are forgiven." Jesus extends an invitation to the despised tax collector, Levi: "Follow me."|On the Second Week of Ordinary Time, John's Gospel offers us the story of the calling of the first two disciples. He asks them what they are looking for and when they ask where he lives, he invites them, "Come, and you will see."
Daily Prayer This Week|In this first week of Ordinary Time, we might find ourselves feeling a little let-down after the Christmas season, especially in parts of the world where it seems cold and dark most days. This is where we can ask for the grace to let the stories of the gospels come alive in our hearts.|The vivid narratives of this week's gospel are packed with stories of Jesus' entering into the lives of real people and touching them in extraordinary ways. These are not far away stories, but ones that have a real meaning for us. This is a week of invitation from Jesus to us, with two invitations for us to ponder in our hearts this week.|Jesus encounters Levi, a Jewish tax collector. Because of his profession, he was probably wealthy but he had humiliated his family and made himself a pariah to most of those around him. Jesus' response to this "outcast" was to invite him to be one of his closest disciples - and to dine at his house.|In our own lives we may find a loneliness or separation from people in our family or others in our lives. We have parts of our lives that are dark and embarrassing and seem unchangeable. It is into this very darkness and discomfort that Jesus extends the same invitation to us - "Follow me." This clear and personal call to us is from Jesus who already knows us and our failings and yet asks us to be with him. We can hear this invitation more clearly if we can be touched with awareness of our own failings and understand more deeply how much we need a savior in our lives. It is then that our hearts open to accept this invitation.|This week Jesus invites us to follow him, as friends and disciples. This is a good week for us to contemplate with Jesus, what we are looking for and how much we want to turn and follow him. We can pray to Jesus for the strength to leave the patterns and habits of our lives that so often turn us away from him and ask for the grace to make a new beginning in our lives. If we can sit with our hands open in humility, we can accept that we can't do this on our own, but know in our hearts that with the help of God, nothing is impossible.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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