Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the First Week of Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass of the Mercy of God
January 11, 2016
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 begin Ordinary Time in the Church, the readings the Church gives us help us to find the coordinates we need to live the time God has given us well. The ordinary or common time of Christians involves living with the borderline unbelievable reality we’ve been pondering throughout the Christmas Season: that God has entered our world, dwells among us, and wants to dwell within us until the end of time; that he came as “Mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled,” and wants to help us to grow in our correspondence to mercy. Yesterday on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we pondered St. Paul’s Words to Titus, “When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” As we enter into Ordinary Time during this extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, we’re called to enter ever more into union with “Mercy Incarnate,” with “God Saves” (Jesus) and “God with us” (Emmanuel). Today on this first day in Ordinary Time we have a chance to do what I’ve been waiting to do since the beginning of this Jubilee Year of Mercy but because of the liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas was prevented by Church liturgical law from doing: to celebrate a votive Mass of “The Mercy of God,” which is something we’ll be doing together a lot this year!
- In today’s Gospel, we see what that Word, that Son, that enfleshment of Mercy, said as he began his public ministry after his Baptism. He updated the truths that we have celebrated at his birth in new language. He started by describing that the long wait is over, that we had entered the time of the fulfillment of all man’s hopes and all the Messianic predictions of the prophets because “the kingdom of God is at hand” with the coming of the King, with the coming of God-in-the-flesh. Then this Word who summarizes in his himself all God wants to say gives us four verbs, four commands, four things we need to do: repent, believe, come to follow him, and fish. Each of these are means to respond to the merciful invitation to live with him in the fulfillment of time. Today as we ponder this scene from the prism of God’s mercy, we learn various lessons about how we’re to live ordinary time and all our time.
- The first word is “repent.” In this Year of Mercy, it’s key for us to ponder that Jesus’ whole preaching begins with the word “repent.” In Greek, this word is metanoete, which means a total revolution of our mind, of the way we look at things. We no longer look with the eyes of this world but with the eyes of the kingdom where the King is present. It’s a call to conversion, to no longer think as everyone else thinks, to no longer do as everyone else does, but to put on the mind of God, to align our heart and our actions to him. It means to open ourselves profoundly to the way God sees things, to his mercy. The truth is that we’re not yet living enough as the image and likeness of God, we’re not yet “turning with” Jesus (con-verting) in all aspects and we need to change. For some people this means a 180 degree turn. For sisters or clerics actively seeking holiness, it might mean a 30 degree turn or a 10 degree turn. But all of us need this conversion and we will always need it. We need to repent of our past failures to stay with the Lord who came into the world to be Mercy-with-us and to come to be fully with him. Ordinary Time is a time in which we regularly repent, in which we continuously convert, in which we incessantly seek to change to become more and more like the Lord who calls us through mercy to that penance and renewal. We have to overcome the spiritual stubbornness that makes us hardened soil to the Lord. The Lord who calls us to this metanoia will give us in his compassion all the help he knows we need to achieve it, but we have to correspond.
- The second word is “believe.” To believe means not just to accept something as true, whether reluctantly or enthusiastically. To believe means totally to submit oneself to a reality on the basis of a trust in the one testifying to the reality. To believe means to entrust ourselves totally to Jesus and on the basis of that trust to ground our lives on what he says. The ordinary time of a Christian is meant to be filled with this type of faith. Because of our trust in Jesus we believe in what he tells us about the path of happiness in the Beatitudes and we seek to align our whole lives to what he says. Because of our trust in Jesus we believe in what he reveals to us about God the Father and we ground our existence on that Father’s love and call. Because of our trust in Jesus we believe in what he says about his presence in the Eucharist, about his sending out the apostles and their successors for the forgiveness of sins in confession, about what he says about caring for others as if we were caring for him, about what he emphasizes about praying for our persecutors and even loving our enemies. In the Image of Divine Mercy Jesus instructed St. Faustina to have painted, there’s the expression, “Jezu ufam tobie,” “Jesus, I trust in you.” This is the way we express our faith. Just as St. John exclaimed, “We have come to know and believe in the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16), so each of us ought to exclaim this year, “I have come to know and believe in the Mercy God has for me,” I trust in it, because God’s love is merciful and God is mercy.
- The third word is “follow me” or “Come after me.” Jesus says those words to Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John in the Gospel and they immediately left their nets, their boats, their fish, their employees and their families to follow him. They were open to the type of revolution in the way they looked at their life that is contained in Jesus’ word metanoete. They believed in Jesus already enough to leave everything behind on a dime to base their entire life on his word calling them to follow him and become fishers of men. They were willing to base their lives on his mercy. After Simon in St. Luke’s account falls to his knees and begs Jesus, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man,” when Jesus tells us not to be afraid and that he would make him a fisher of men, Peter believed and followed. Likewise for us it’s not enough to repent and to believe, because the Lord Jesus always calls us to follow him in faith, turning back on other things, moving from where we are to where he is, knowing that he is constantly seeking to lead us to the Father and to others. Ordinary Time is a time of this type of discipleship, in which we focus on following the Lord Jesus.
- And that brings us to the fourth verb: fish. The Lord in calling us to be with him then sends us out. The two great verbs in his vocabulary are “come” and “go.” During this Year of Mercy, Christ is calling us to follow him precisely down this path of mercy, becoming rich in the Mercy of the Father so that we may be as merciful as he is in extending that mercy to others. It’s the mercy of God, the love of God made incarnate by the Lord Jesus, that will draw others through us just like it drew us first. And this repentance, this faith, and this following the Lord down the path of mercy and bringing that mercy to the world is something that is meant to be not one time things or episodic, extraordinary events but ordinary.
- We see an expression of God’s mercy 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 in his mercy had a much bigger plan in mind for Hannah, who will become the mother of the great prophet Samuel. Jesus would say in the Sermon on the Mount that in his kingdom 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. But Hannah needed to have a revolution of mind in terms of the the way she approached this situation, she needed to trust in God, and she needed to act on that trust. The Lord asks of us the same thing.
- As we prepare now to receive the Word made flesh, Mercy Incarnate, we ponder how Jesus wants us to help us to think like him, to trust more and more in him, and to follow him precisely by uniting us to him in such a way that we will become living, breathing commentaries of what it means to repent, to believe, to follow and to fish. And to help us become that living, breathing exegete, Jesus gives us now his very self.
The readings for today’s 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.
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.
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.”
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.