What God Does in Response to Our Dignity as His Children, 1st Tuesday (I), January 10, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
January 10, 2017
Heb 1:1-6; 2:5-12, Ps 8, Mk 1:14-28

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

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. Today’s first reading — which combines Monday and Tuesday of the first week of Ordinary Time since yesterday was the feast of the Lord’s baptism — was also heard on Christmas morning. It reminds us that even though God has spoken to us in the past through nature, through reason, and through the prophets, in the fulfillment of time he has spoken to us in his Son, his Incarnate Word, and it describes just who this Son is: the Son who was with him from the beginning, the Son through whom he created the universe, the Son who is the refulgence (the brilliant reflection) of his glory, The Son who is the imprint of his being, the Son who sustains everything by his providential word, the Son whom he has made heir of all things, the Son who is now seated at his right hand far above all the angels. That is the Son whom God has sent to synthesize and fulfill in a living Word all that God had communicate before. There’s a passage from St. John of the Cross printed in the Catechism that synthesizes the wonder of this reality to which the beginning of the Letter to the Hebrews eloquently attests: “In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word – and he has no more to say. . . because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son.”
  • And what did that Word say by his coming into the world? The Letter to the Hebrews says that this Son who says it all, even though he was higher than the angels and the angels were created through him, was made “for a little while lower than the angels,” taking on our nature so that he could “suffer death … that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” This was so, being made “perfect through suffering,” he might lead “many children to glory” precisely through suffering. Jesus humbled himself in this way not simply to speak to us about this glory to which we’re called by the Lord who is mindful of us and cares for us but to show us the path of salvific suffering and lead us through this suffering to glory. The Word speaks to us through his body language so that he might say to us both “this is my body given for you” and “do this in memory of me.” This is the nature of Jesus’ consecration coming into the world. As he said during the Last Supper prayed, “I consecrate myself for them so that they may be consecrated in the Truth.” He did all that he did so that we might be sanctified. That’s why the Letter to the Hebrews says significantly, “He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin,” namely God the Father and the depth of his fatherly, saving love. Because of this origin, because of this consecration, because of this love, the Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus “is not ashamed to call them ‘brothers’ saying: “I will proclaim your name to my brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.” Jesus has come to proclaim the Father’s name and praise to us so that we can join him in the Father’s home. That’s who Jesus is and that’s what he’s about at the general level. And so we, with today’s Psalm, are called to exclaim: “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?”
  • We see that care in the double-Gospel we have today. In the passage normally for Monday of the first week, we see what that Word, that Son, said as he began his public ministry. 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 three verbs, three commands, four things we need to do: repent, believe, come to follow him, and then fish with him for others.
  • The first word is “repent.” In Greek, this word is metanoete, which means a total revolution of our mind, of the way we look at things. 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 compare ourselves to the brilliant reflection of God found in the refulgent Jesus and recognize 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 others it might mean to 50 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 God-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 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 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 says about praying for our persecutors and even loving our enemies. For the new year that has begun to be truly a year of the Lord it’s to be a year of faith.
  • 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. 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. Ordinary Time is a time of this type of discipleship, in which we focus on following the Lord Jesus.
  • And the fourth thing is “fish.” He tells the four, “I will make your fishers of men.” He sends them out to help remind others of their dignity, to repent, to trust in him and to follow him in such a way that likewise they will seek to catch others to come to experience God’s love and God’s glory.
  • In the passage from Tuesday, we see two things: first, how Jesus trains the four he has just called by his teaching to teach others; and second, we see how he seeks to help us when we’ve fallen from our dignity.
  • Jesus goes about accomplishing his mission of announcing to us God’s word, of communicating to us the name and praise of God, of leading us to perfection through suffering, in the Gospel. Right after Jesus began his public ministry and called his first disciples to follow him, he entered the Capernaum synagogue and began to announce and incarnate God’s word through teaching. St. Mark tells us, “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” The Scribes would teach by citing Moses, or Scriptural texts, or rabbinical commentaries. Jesus taught in a different way. He spoke with authority because he is the Author of the world. As we’ll see throughout his public ministry, he’ll say things like, “You heard that it was said… but I say to you.” He would say that he himself is the Good Shepherd, the Light of the World, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Truth and the Light. Jesus communicated with a directness and power that came from the fact that he was the origin of what he was speaking about. And the reaction of the crowds was astonishment. They were amazed and said, “What is this? A new teaching with authority.”
  • And then Jesus showed his authority and the power of his words by the exorcism of a possessed man who happened to be in the synagogue at the time. The very presence of Jesus, his holiness, irritated the demon beyond belief. It convulsed the man and cried out from within him, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” And Jesus rebuked the spirit, told him to be quiet and finally to “Come out of him!,” and the spirit obeyed, an unforgettable sign of the authority with which Jesus speaks. We should note, as we see in the writings of the recently deceased exorcist of Rome, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, that sometimes those who are possessed can at the same time be in the state of grace and even daily communicants, because possession doesn’t necessarily mean that one’s soul is sinful. In this scene, even though the man was possessed, he came to worship God and God freed him, restoring him to his dignity that the devil was assailing. Similarly sometimes we come to worship God but part of us is being assailed by the evil one. We may be struggling against a particular temptation, or the chapel might seem like the last place we want to be. Jesus by his authority wants to reestablish us in dignity as well so that we may follow him all the way to the Father’s house.
  • The normal way he does that is through his Word. The question and the challenge for us is whether we are amazed and astonished at Jesus’ message, at Jesus’ healing work, at Jesus himself as he speaks to us. If we are amazed and astonished at Jesus’ teaching, if we recognize he speaks with an authority unlike any other, than we will do what people do when they’re amazed: we’ll behave as if we can’t possibly get enough of his teaching. We’ll devour the Gospels. We’ll seek to enter much more deeply into his words through Bible Study and prayerful lectio divina. We’ll long to meet those who can open up the Word of God to us and help us to experience anew Jesus’ amazing and astonishing authority.
  • As we prepare now to receive the Word made flesh, we ponder how Jesus wants us to imitate him in giving his words our own flesh so that we might be living, breathing commentaries of what it means to repent, to believe, to follow and to fish, so that we might allow him to restore us to our dignity and cast out from our life whatever is not worthy of communion with him. To help us become that living, breathing exegete, Jesus — the Son of God who was with him from the beginning, the Son through whom he created the universe, the Son who is the refulgence of his glory, the Son who is the imprint of his being, the Son who sustains everything by his providential word, the Son whom he has made heir of all things, the Son who is now seated at his right hand far above all the angels, the Son who synthesizes and fulfills all that God the Father wants to say — gives us now his very self. May way be blown away like those in the Capernaum synagogue, enter into Jesus’ consecration, receive the Father’s mindful care to the full, obey him even better than the demon obeyed him in the Gospel, and give our life to help everyone else discovering the astonishing and amazing Treasure whom we’re about to consume.

The readings for today’s Mass (which combined those of Monday of the 1st Week of Ordinary Time and today’s) were: 

Reading 1 Heb 1:1-6; 2:5-12

Brothers and sisters:
In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways
to our ancestors through the prophets;
in these last days, he spoke to us through the Son,
whom he made heir of all things
and through whom he created the universe,
who is the refulgence of his glory,
the very imprint of his being,
and who sustains all things by his mighty word.
When he had accomplished purification from sins,
he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
as far superior to the angels
as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say:
You are my Son; this day I have begotten you?
Or again: I will be a father to him, and he shall be a Son to me?
And again, when he leads the first born into the world, he says:
Let all the angels of God worship him.
It was not to angels that God subjected the world to come,
of which we are speaking.
Instead, someone has testified somewhere:
What is man that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you crowned him with glory and honor,
subjecting all things under his feet.In “subjecting” all things to him,
he left nothing not “subject to him.”
Yet at present we do not see “all things subject to him,”
but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor”
because he suffered death,
he who “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels,”
that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.For it was fitting that he,
for whom and through whom all things exist,
in bringing many children to glory,
should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.
He who consecrates
and those who are being consecrated all have one origin.
Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers” saying:I will proclaim your name to my brethren,
in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.

Responsorial Psalm PS 8:2AB AND 5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (see 7) You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.
O LORD, our Lord,
how glorious is your name over all the earth!
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. You have given your Son rule over the works of your hands.

Alleluia SEE 1 THES 2:13

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Receive the word of God, not as the word of men,
but as it truly is, the word of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 1:14-28

After John had been arrested,
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.
Jesus came to Capernaum with his followers,
and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.