Monday 10th January
Hebrews 1:1ff. In times past God spoke to us in many and varied ways, but in this final age, through his eternal and creative Son.
Mark 1:14ff. Jesus begins his mission, proclaiming the reign of God and calling his first disciples to work with him in bringing the Good News to others.
Affection and Spirituality
There are several thematic links between today’s readings: 1 Jesus announces the reign of God; Hannah’s son will inaugurate Israel’s monarchy and anoint the first kings, Saul and David; 2 yet neither Jesus nor Hannah can succeed by normal human ways, as Hannah was barren and Jesus held no prestige or social position; 3 in each case bonds of affection play a major part: Elkanah’s devoted love for Hannah; Jesus’ invitation to his disciples to leave everything, even their parents, to follow him; the intimate attachment of Father and Son in the mystery of the Holy Trinity; 4 a decisive moment as Jesus begins his public ministry; the conception of a child by Hannah; the dawning of this, “final age,” according to Hebrews.
The Scriptures begin where all of us begin, within the bonds of human love and family life, with the gradual development of hopes and possibilities. The Bible always manifests a healthy respect for the normal ways of human nature. Even if Hebrews affirms the divine origins of Jesus, its first words acknowledge the long, slow preparation of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Israelite people for the birth of our Lord, “in times past, God spoke in many and varied ways to our ancestors through the prophets.” Those words span the many centuries from Abraham to Jesus. If a thousand years “are as yesterday” in the Lord’s sight, Ps 90:4, God could have done it differently, and dispensed with the eras of Abraham, Moses and prophets and kings, and simply announced the presence of Jesus, our great Mediator. Instead, the providence of God worked slowly, patiently and in ways adapted to our human nature. Bonds of affection show up in so many ways in today’s texts: between Elkanah and Hannah, Simon and Andrew, James and John, and each with their father.
Patience and understanding are particularly relevant as we begin the long thirty-four weeks of the church year. These are not weeks of heightened attention like Advent and Christmas, just now completed, but are “ordinary” time – weeks that seem to get nowhere – reflecting life’s normal monotony. The bonds of friendship and family can be tested, not just by major crises, when, indeed, people often rally together but by impatience, weariness and feeling taken for granted. The Scriptures of ordinary time serve to sustain us over the long trek of life. In their varied ways they encourage and inspire us to be faithful in the small monotonies of living.
The Scriptures lead us into a seasonally prayerful spirit. If at times Jesus may seem only vaguely present, he is still here with us, calling us to follow him, not with the purpose of setting aside ordinary human love, but to enrich and transform it. In the providence of God, even miracles take place: Hannah conceives a child, Jesus himself is born of the virgin, and the world-wide church emerges from small beginnings. If only we unite prayer with daily living, the longed-for changes will come. Jesus will say, “Follow me,” and life’s fulfilment will turn out to be more wonderful than we could ever have imagined.
First Reading: Hebrews 1:1-6
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to 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; today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”
Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.