Daily Reflections 2nd Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)
Friday 22nd January
In the first reading today we continue with the Letter to the Hebrews. It explains how Jesus has now come to establish a new and eternal covenant. This new covenant surpasses the covenants of old. This covenant was actually sealed in his blood.
The in the Gospel, we hear the account of Jesus calling His disciples, those whom He wanted to help in his ministry.
We gather as disciples of Jesus and ask for his living mercy and forgiveness.
The novel The Keys of the Kingdom, by the Scottish author A.J. Cronin, tells the story of a Scottish priest, Fr Francis Chisolm, who spends his life as a missionary in China during the first part of the twentieth century. Francis’ best friend is Archie Tulloch. They grow up together, Francis becoming a priest, Archie becoming a doctor. They are great friends, despite the fact that Archie is an atheist.
Archie comes out to visit Francis in China. While he is there a terrible plague breaks out in the town. Francis and Archie do wonderful work in containing the disease, but tragically, while doing so, Archie falls ill himself. There is a touching scene when Archie is dying and Francis is with him. Francis knows Archie does not believe in God, and so is not administering the Last Rites or, indeed, saying any prayers. Rather, Francis is just sitting quietly with Archie, keeping his old friend company in his last moments. Archie looks up at Francis and says, “Francis, you have been a wonderful friend and I have always loved you. But I have never loved you as much as I do now, because you are not trying to force me into heaven. Francis, even now, I do not believe, I cannot believe.” And Fr Francis, with tears in his eyes, looks at his old friend and replies, “Archie, it does not really matter that you do not believe in God. Because, you see, Archie, God believes in you.”
Jesus believes in the twelve apostles – weak, frail and fragile human beings. Jesus believes in you and me. Despite our shortcomings, Jesus says to each one of us, “I love you, I trust you, I believe in you; come and be my apostle.”
Thursday 21st January – Feast of St Agnes (Virgin & Martyr)
Today we celebrate the feast day of St Agnes, an early church virgin and martyr. At a very tender age of either 12 or 15 she chose to die rather than to renounce her faith by agreeing to the wicked intentions of others. She had courage way beyond her years.
We begin this Mass by asking for the loving mercy and forgiveness of God.
A young girl, may be only 12 or 15 years old was caught up in the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Diocletian. To persecute anyone is bad enough; to persecute a child is an unspeakable crime. This young girl was named Agnes.
The sadness of the event was captured forever in the inscription placed on the tomb. Pope Damasus had sacred verse put on her tomb to tell the world who the little girl was and why she died. And further, that she is one of God’s beloved children.
Hatred and bigotry robbed this little girl of her earthly life, but she placed her faith and trust in God who called her to eternal life. As always, God chooses what is seemingly weak and makes them strong. May we never be afraid of our own weaknesses, but offer them to God and ask for His strength to transform us.
Wednesday 20th January
In our first reading today, we see how it is Jesus who is the true priest. Indeed he is as the psalmist says today, the priest forever of the order of Melchizedek.
Then in the Gospel, we see how Jesus is ruffling the feathers of those who think they have authority. But Jesus as always, puts the needs of others before the any laws – no matter what the cost.
We gather before the same Lord Jesus and ask for his loving mercy and forgiveness.
In the 1970s and 1980s, El Salvador was dominated by the military and powerful land-owners who controlled the wealth of the country, while the vast majority of the people lived in poverty. When Oscar Romero was made Archbishop he seemed to be a quiet person who would not challenge the authorities. However, three weeks after he became Archbishop, a young Salvadorean priest, Fr Rutilio Grande, was murdered as he was on his way to celebrate Mass in a small village thirty miles north of the capital. Fr Grande was murdered because he was working in solidarity with the poor in opposition to the unjust systems in the country. When Archbishop Romero heard of the murder, he went immediately to the village where the body of Fr Rutilio was laid out in the church. There he spent part of the night in prayer. That night was to change Archbishop Romero’s life for ever. He wrote later, “When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead, I thought if they killed him for doing what he did, then I too have to walk the same path.”
Romero grew in strength and became the defender of the oppressed. In the end, the powerful saw no other solution but to silence him for good. Little did those responsible realise that Romero’s voice would live on and today his words and example give hope and courage to people all over the world. The Pharisees and Herodians wanted to destroy Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus is to run the risk of encountering the cross. We pray that, like Archbishop Romero, we may have the courage to follow Jesus in his path of suffering to the cross.
Tuesday 19th January
In the first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, we are reassured that we can trust totally in the promises of God.
Then in the Gospel Jesus makes it clear to the hypocrite Pharisees just what the true meaning of the Sabbath is and how He Himself is Master of the Sabbath.
We gather in the presence of the Son of Man the Master of the Sabbath and ask for His blessing and loving mercy in our lives.
The Gospels are full of controversy. Jesus uses these occasions as opportunities to stress important truths about himself. In today’s passage the Pharisees appear, as if by magic, in the middle of the field where Jesus and his apostles are walking. Surely they are not patrolling the fields looking for violations? Are they spying on Jesus and the apostles to find fault with them?
Jesus gives us an insight into the nature of the Sabbath itself. The Sabbath is a privilege, not a task or a burden. It was instituted for our benefit. This one day in seven was made for us, for our happiness. The primary intention behind the command to keep the Sabbath is to keep it holy, to have time set apart for God. Everyday work comes to a halt, and there is time for rest and refreshment – this is vital for us, an important part of God’s intention for every human being.
We see here the authority of Jesus, who claims to know the mind of God. God’s loving intention for humanity is not to be bound by petty human rules and regulations. How would Jesus address the Pharisee in me who is quick to judge?
Monday 18th January
In the first reading today from the letter to the Hebrews, it makes it clear that Jesus is the only and true High Priest who is able to take away the sins of the world.
Then in the Gospel Jesus makes it clear that with His coming a new age is dawning and people must be ready and willing to welcome it. It is always the choice of the people, whether to accept Jesus or not.
We begin this Mass by asking for the loving mercy and forgiveness of God in our lives.
In the time of Jesus, after a Jewish wedding, the couple would not go away on honeymoon, they would stay at home. For a week or so open house would be kept and there was continuous feasting and celebrating. In lives that were generally very hard, a wedding week was the happiest.
To that week of happiness, the couples closest friends and family were invited and they were called the children of the bride-chamber. A Rabbinic ruling actually stated that, “All in attendance on the bride-groom are relieved of all religious observances which lessen their joy.”
With this in mind, Jesus likens his company of followers as children of the bride-chamber, chosen guests.
We are in the company of Jesus, we are his chosen guests and therefore in the spirit of faith we too are called to rejoice, for Jesus is with us.
Sunday 17th January
Today on this the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time we hear the call of the first disciples. That call is being made to us today who are the followers of Jesus and like the disciples we are called to respond. We pray in this Mass that we will be generous in our response as we follow the Lord Jesus.
In our Baptism we left behind the darkness of sin to embrace a new way of life. For the times we have strayed from this new way of life, we ask for the loving mercy and forgiveness of God.
Lord Jesus, you are the Lord of life and the Lord of love. Lord have mercy…
Christ Jesus, you are the Messiah, the holy one who brings us truth and grace. Christ have mercy…
Lord Jesus, you are the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Lord have mercy…
People sometimes ask me, ‘How did I know I wanted to be a priest?’ Or sometimes they say, ‘Were you called to be a priest?’ If I am honest, I am not sure how I heard the call, I just know as I was growing up, I felt a continual pull towards being a priest. It just made sense, it felt right.
I remember when my brother Hughie got married, I had the privilege of being the priest for his wedding. At the speeches Hugh was talking about our family saying various things about us all. Then he came to me, and I’ll never forget what he said. He said, “And then there’s Eamonn, he took a different path in life from the rest of the family.”
I have often thought about that, ‘he took a different path in life’. Whilst I understand what my brother was saying, that isn’t how I feel. To me, being a priest seems the most natural thing in the world to do. It doesn’t feel different, I’m just like everyone else, who has followed a vocation in life. I did feel called and I am glad I answered that call. But I never heard any voices, I never had a sudden vision, it just felt natural and the right thing to do.
The story of Samuel’s call gives the impression that God’s call is an external and audible one. But God’s call doesn’t usually come like that. It is internal rather than external. It is something that is felt in the heart, even though it may be provoked by some external circumstances.
God’s call is invariably a call to serve. It calls for a response, which must be given freely. In order for that response to be a positive one, two things are essential: willingness and generosity.
Today the idea of a call, especially God’s call, can be profoundly counter-cultural. The modern world is marked by individualism, fear of commitment, and hunger for independence. All the emphasis is on the economy, on success, on the image, on self.
And yet, there is a fulfilment in life beyond all this. Far and away the best opportunity that life has to offer, is the chance to work at something that is worth doing and that is bigger than ourselves and our own interests. A chance to give of ourselves to others rather than receiving.
The quality of our lives are affected, not so much by what we are given, but rather by what we are prepared to give. Every vocation, and we all have a vocation, given to us by God, is a call to the fullness of love. Every baptized Christian, male, female, married, single, priest or religious is called. It is in this way that we become the people God created us to be. May we all be generous in giving time to hear God’s voice talking to us, and equally generous answering God’s calls in our lives. God needs us all to play our part in the world and the church today.