Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the First Week of Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Hilary of Poitiers, Bishop and Doctor
January 13, 2014
1 Sam 1:1-8, Ps 116: Mk 1:14-20
To listen to an audio recording of the homily, please click here:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Today, as we commence Ordinary Time in the liturgical calendar, the Church has us focus on the fundamentals of how we’re supposed to be living ordinary day-to-day life. It begins with Jesus’ call in today’s Gospel to Simon, Andrew, James and John: “Follow me!” We’ve just finished the liturgical season of Christmas and Jesus came into the world in order to save us from sin and death, to sanctify us and make us sharers in his divinity, but he would created us without our help save and sanctify us without our help. We have to cooperate. That’s why, right after the celebration of his baptism and the inauguration of his public ministry, the Church has us ponder with the first apostles the Lord’s call to get up from where we are and follow him into that kingdom he came to establish in the fullness of time. He also wants to make us fishers of men to help guide others to make the same choice to follow the Lamb wherever he leads.
- In order to do that, we first need to be willing to make changes in our life, to leave things behind to follow Jesus, to stop desiring to call the shots but allowing Jesus to lead us. Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were not going to enter the kingdom remaining where they were, holding on to their nets and fish and going on with life as normal, adding a relationship with Jesus as a “hobby.” They needed a new life. And they were wise enough to leave their boats immediately to follow Jesus. We need to make the same choice. Yesterday, we pondered the meaning of our baptism and renewed our baptismal promises, rejecting Satan and renewing our faith in Jesus. The toll to enter the kingdom is whatever keeps us from the kingdom, and we need to be able to pay that price to obtain the pearl of greatest value of all. The quicker we do so, the wiser we are and the better off we’ll be.
- To opt for the kingdom, however, we first need to know that Jesus’ kingdom then and now is not what people expect. Two thousand years ago people thought it would be one of power, prestige and prosperity, booting foreign powers, lording things over a whole retinue of servants, being filled with all types of honor. The kingdom of Jesus, however, is not of this world and wasn’t going to satisfy those spiritually worldly criteria. He was coming to inaugurate a different type of kingdom with totally different, even in some cases contradictory, criteria.
- We see a little foretaste of this surprise in today’s first reading. Penninah, the fertile wife of Elkanah, used to mock Hannah because she was sterile. She used to mock her particularly when Elkanah’s whole family would go up to pray and sacrifice to God at the Temple in Shiloh, which shows that God’s house, rather than bringing out the best in people can bring out the worst when one isn’t really centered on pleasing God. But, as we’ll hear this week, God had a much bigger plan in mind for Hannah, who will become the mother of the great prophet Samuel. Jesus would later say in the Sermon on the Mount that in his keeping those who weep like Hannah will be consoled, and Hannah will be consoled far more than she would have ever dreamed, not just becoming a mom but the mother of one of God’s most famous servants.
- In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stressed that his kingdom is different. In his kingdom those who are poor will be those truly rich in what matters; those who are hungry will be the ones satiated forever; those who are meek, pure, peace-making and persecuted — rather than the most popular or the domineering, or those most successful on the battlefield will inherit the kingdom.
- The Church has us begin ordinary time by having us focus on leaving worldly standards behind, leaving worldly gurus behind, and once more to commit to following Jesus without compromise and to trying to help others come to follow him. This is the “ordinary life” of Christians, what we are meant to do in “ordinary time.” This is what it means to live out the reality of our baptism we pondered yesterday.
- One who shows us how to do this is the saint we celebrate today. St. Hilary of Poitiers grew up the son of well-educated pagan parents in Gaul (modern day France). He hungered for the meaning of life and knew that the standards of the world didn’t cut it. Most people lived seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, but he said that that is basically the same standard that beasts followed. He searched through various philosophies until he got hold of the Christian Scriptures. He was fascinated by God’s self-description to Moses in the burning bush, “I am who am.” He was even more greatly fascinated by the Christian belief that “I am who am” took on our flesh and entered our world. He recognized that the truth for which he was searching had a proper name, and once he became aware of this, he sought to leave everything and worldly standards behind to follow him. He was a married man and a father and as a layman he grew in faith. As soon as he became aware of the Arian heresy and met Arians — those who thought that Jesus was just a great man, but not the eternal Son of God — he started to study all of the Arian writings so that he could help the Arians follow Christ and not the heretical non-divine idol of their making. Eventually when the Diocese of Poitiers became vacant, the people clamored for him to be their leader, and he was ordained a deacon, priest and bishop. Even though he suffered much from political and ecclesiastical figures for his firm writings and preaching against the Arians, his courage and passionate desire to follow Christ in everything helped to liberate France over time from this heresy. He received his strength from the daily “Word made flesh” that is the Holy Eucharist. This is where he learned that the Christ’s standards are not the world’s and how we, too, are called to reign by humbly giving our body, blood and whole lives for others.
- Likewise the Eucharist is meant to be our school of ordinary Christian life. There’s no greater way to repay the Lord for the gift of our life than to do what today’s Psalm says, what we are about to repeat as the Church repeats every day: “How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the LORD!”
The readings for the Mass were:
1 SM 1:1-8
a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim.
He was the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu,
son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.
He had two wives, one named Hannah, the other Peninnah;
Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless.
This man regularly went on pilgrimage from his city
to worship the LORD of hosts and to sacrifice to him at Shiloh,
where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas,
were ministering as priests of the LORD.
When the day came for Elkanah to offer sacrifice,
he used to give a portion each to his wife Peninnah
and to all her sons and daughters,
but a double portion to Hannah because he loved her,
though the LORD had made her barren.
Her rival, to upset her, turned it into a constant reproach to her
that the LORD had left her barren.
This went on year after year;
each time they made their pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the LORD,
Peninnah would approach her,
and Hannah would weep and refuse to eat.
Her husband Elkanah used to ask her:
“Hannah, why do you weep, and why do you refuse to eat?
Why do you grieve?
Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
PS 116:12-13, 14-17, 18-19
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The Kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”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.
He walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.