January 9, 2017
by Andy Alexander, S.J.
Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the First week in Ordinary Time

Hebrews 1:1-6
Psalms 97:1-2, 6-7, 9
Mark 1:14-20

Celebrating Christmas home page

For those celebrating the Baptism of the Lord

After our time of celebrating the Christmas season, we return to observing Ordinary Time - or, more precisely, "counted time" between now and the beginning of Lent. For the next eight weeks, we will move through the first ten chapters of Mark's gospel. It is a terrific time to let Jesus tell us his story in a very direct way.

It's wonderful that the story begins with Jesus calling his first four disciples. They live by the sea and fishing is their livelihood. The story becomes helpful for me when I let myself imagine the scene happening to me - the way it often does.

Jesus often approaches us right in the midst of our everyday busy life. He knows who we are. He made us. He's always been with us. Nothing that's happened to us or in us is unknown to him. Jesus calls the first four away from their boats and nets, he calls them to use their gifts - for fishing - to serve him, to be his companion in responding to the call his Father gives him. They, who are good at casting out nets, will learn to cast out nets in a new and different way.

I imagine that this is the way Jesus calls each of us. Only rarely does he call one or other of us to leave our job and do something entirely different - though he certainly does do that. Quite often, however, he calls us to use our gifts in new and different ways, where we are.

The "listening" of Ordinary Time can be a day to day process of being attentive to how our Lord is calling each of us to use our gifts in the ways which place us with Jesus, in ministry, for and with others. For example, no matter what we do - which might at first seem completely mundane or secular - everything we do can be experienced and done with a heart more like Jesus' heart. To be specific, I might be in a workplace which is draining for me, and where I might find frustration, or even anger and a lot of judgment of others there. To open my heart to be like Jesus' heart can help me do that same job, while experiencing the situation through Jesus' eyes. Instead of impatience and resentment, I might feel more missioned to do what I do with a gentler spirit. I might even reflect upon the burdens that my coworkers have had to carry and grow in a real compassion for them, even to the extent that, though I may not like what they do all the time, I can feel for their struggle and understand better why they are the way they are.

Another thing can begin to happen. When I become less "upset" or "disturbed" by what is happening around me, and when my spirit becomes more tranquil - even more loving - I contribute to changing the atmosphere around me. We can easily see that happen in our family, and it can extend to our workplace and our faith community. I can contribute to the toxicity in my family or my work or my parish. Or, I can become an inspiration to others - less so by what I say, and more so by what I do, especially, how I act.

When there is a growing joy and peace in my heart, it becomes attractive to others. It is calming and less threatening to others. Instead of being a part of the conflict and division, I can become a part of the serenity and calm around me. Eventually, I can realize and experience that - without leaving my boat or my nets - I'm casting nets with Jesus, for the hearts of others.

What family, workplace, faith community couldn't use more disciples who are instruments of his peace?

Lord, let me recognize the way you call me today. When you say "Come after me," let me respond with an open heart. Help me get rid of my excuses. Heal me so that I can join you in drawing others to you. Let me be a source of comfort, compassion, joy and healing for others. Let me imitate your daring way of being with anyone, everyone, with such an accompanying and accepting presence. I so desire to learn new ways to be your disciple.

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