09Jan 09 Jan. Monday of Week One

1 Samuel 1:1ff. Hannah is pitied for being childless, and her husband tries to comfort her.

Mark 1:14ff. Jesus begins proclaiming the reign of God and calling his first disciples.

Affection and Spirituality

The Bible shows a healthy respect for the normal ways of human nature. Bonds of affection feature in today’s texts: between Elkanah and Hannah, between Jesus and Simon and Andrew, James and John. No spirituality that disregards the bonds of friendship and family can properly be rooted in the Bible. And a basic principle in relationship is to be patient and perceptive about other people’s feelings.

This principle is beautifully exemplified in what Elkanah says to his despondent wife. First of all, he calls her by name, “Hannah” and is sensitive to her distress: “What are these tears for? Why do you refuse to eat?” He wants to know her feelings and does not judge simply by the way they affect himself: “Why do you grieve?” he asks, and then speaks tenderly, trying to console her: “Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

Patience and understanding are needed as we begin the long thirty-four weeks of the church year. This in not a time of heightened prayerful attention like Advent and Christmas which we have just experienced, but “ordinary” time – weeks that seem insignificant – reflecting life’s normal monotony. The bonds of friendship and family are tested less by major crises (when, indeed, people often rally together) than by impatience, weariness and feeling taken for granted. The Scriptures of ordinary time can 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 Church invites 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 in a way that demands the setting aside family life and 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. 1 Samuel 1:1-8

There was a certain man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Now this man used to go up year by year from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?

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.


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