DAILY REFLECTIONS 2ND WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Friday 21st January – 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.
Thursday 20th January – Weekday in Ordinary Time (Year II)
The 1st readings yesterday was the popular story of David and Goliath and how David defeats Goliath. In the first reading today we see the popularity of David after he has triumphed over the Philistine, but this does not go down too well with King Saul who gets jealous.
Then in the Gospel, we see how Jesus is now under pressure, the crowds are flocking to him and even the unclean spirits are making Jesus known.
We gather in the presence of the same Lord Jesus and ask for his loving mercy and forgiveness.
In the 1950s two up-and-coming young music stars -Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley were promoted by Sam Phillips on the Sun Records label. When Presley’s career went into orbit, it made Cash jealous. The story goes that one day Cash had to drive to Texas, and Phillips asked him to take some of Presley’s records to a promoter there. Years later Cash confessed that he’d been driving along a high ridge in Tennessee, when he got the urge to stop the car and hurl one of those records off the cliff. He tried it once, and must have found it cathartic, because he flung another, and then another -until eventually the trunk was empty and every single record was smashed at the bottom. Years later Cash remembered Presley with affection and acknowledged their kinship as fellow musicians.
Saul and David were fighting on the same side in the war against the Philistines. Nothing less than the lives of the Israelite men, women and children depended on them putting aside personal differences and being the best soldiers they could be. But Saul just couldn’t rise above it and recognise that David’s victories were good news for them both. And although today’s first reading shows a moment of reconciliation between them, Saul’s bitter envy would drive him to destructive behaviour.
What does it take for us to feel secure in our achievements, without making constant comparisons with other people? As Saul’s example shows, such petty rivalry only blurs our vision and ultimately detracts from everything we do.
May we too put aside any jealousies and learn to be people of peace instead.
Tuesday 18th January – Weekday in Ordinary Time (Year II)
In the first reading today we hear how David is chosen to be king in succession to Saul. As always God does things His own way.
Then in the Gospel Jesus reveals His authority in making the hypocritical Pharisees realise that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
For the times we put rules and regulations before love of God and neighbour, we ask for God’s loving mercy and forgiveness.
God’s ways are not our ways and his values are not our values. One of the characteristics of God as manifested in the Bible is that God is different.
We see this especially in God’s approach to his choice of a king to succeed Saul. God sent his prophet, Samuel, to the little, out of the way town of Bethlehem. He did not tell the prophet to search out the rich and famous; not even someone with experience or someone with wealth or education. God told Samuel to choose the least likely son of Jesse, one whom Jesse himself did not even consider as a possibility. That son was David, who became the greatest king in the history of the Israelites.
We have been chosen by God to be His priestly people. This choice was made freely by God. It was God who made David king and it is God who made us His people, totally out of God’s own goodness. May we always give praise and thanks to God for the gift of our faith and for God’s goodness to us His children.
Monday 17th January – St Anthony (Abbot)
Today we celebrate the feast day of one of the great saints of the church, St Antony the founder of Monasticism. Born in Egypt around the year 250. After his parents died he gave up all his worldly goods and went to live in the dessert living a life of penance. In time many were attracted to his way of life and wanted to join him.
He was a strong defender of the church and although he preferred a life of solitude, he was not afraid to go out into the world in support of the churches teaching.
We gather inspired by his holy life and pray to imitate St Antony in his life of faith.
The gospel message today is very important for anybody who belongs to the church. Jesus is not interested in spending time with the rich, the powerful, the self righteous. Instead He wants to reach out to those who are struggling to those who know their own sinfulness to those who need healing, whether in mind or body.
And again as revealed in our Gospel, the call of Jesus is made to all people, not a chosen few. When we think we are better than anybody else, then we have missed the point of Jesus. The call of Jesus is made to all people, and it seems it is made especially to those who know their own need of healing.
Sunday 16th January – 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)
We gather on this the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time and we hear in John’s Gospel about the first sign given by Jesus at a wedding in Cana in Galilee.
Jesus changes the water in wine and this sign is calling upon us to stay close to the Lord Jesus who wants to transform our lives too. Life is a gift from God, it is sacred – it is not meant to be boring or plain. Jesus wants us to experience the fullness of life with him – both in this world and the world to come.
So we gather in the presence of the same Lord Jesus and ask for His loving mercy and forgiveness in our lives.
There are many lovely things about being a priest, but I think one of the nicest things is doing weddings. I have had the honour of being the priest for both of my brothers weddings and have also married many of my friends and parishioners too. It is nice to have a special role top play as a priest when two people get married.
I am sure I will have told you before, but there is one wedding I will never forget. It happened 16 years ago when I was the parish priest in Howden and Carlton. I did the wedding of two friends of mine in Leeds. We celebrated the Wedding Mass and then we had the reception at the Leeds Irish Centre. I am not sure what happened, but at some point things started to go a bit wrong.
Getting late into the evening celebrations, one of the bridesmaids fell over on the dance floor and cracked her head open, so she was taken off to casualty at St James’ Hospital.
Only about an hour later, the best man for reasons better known to himself tried to jump over an outside wall and impaled the inside of his leg on a spike. He was lucky it wasn’t worse. So he too was off to casualty at St James’ Hospital.
Anyway, eventually, as it was getting late I thought I had better go home now and went to find my brother. I was walking to the door to leave, when a friend of mine, as a joke, to put his leg out to trip me up as I walked past. I fell over and landed very badly – I couldn’t walk. My brother tried to help me up, but I couldn’t walk and so I too was taken off to St James’ Hospital to find I had broken my leg in four places and needed an operation!
So there was a bridesmaid, the best man and the priest who all ended up in St James’ Hospital.
But thankfully most weddings are memorable for lots of nice reasons. Above all because they are celebrations of love, with people looking forward to the future and making plans for life together.
I am sure that is how the couple felt in our Gospel today. Happy, excited and having a great time with their family are friends around them celebrating their happy occasion. But like everything in life the celebration is fine, but then we have to get down to the business of living the marriage in the ordinary everyday of life. This is the hard part.
As we all know a marriage is more than the wedding. In my own life, being a priest is more than the ordination. The important part is how we live out are various lives. And just like the wine ran out at the wedding at Cana, sometimes it can feel that the wine has run out in our lives. We can get bored very easily, we can take people and things so much for granted and so we don’t always appreciate who and what we have in life. Again to go back to the Gospel story, it seems that the wine of celebration has run out and all we have left is ordinary plain water.
But as Jesus shows very clearly today, that God does not want us to just endure plain ordinary lives. With Jesus he makes the ordinary extraordinary. He changed the water into wine at the wedding of Cana. St John said in the Gospel, this was the 1st sign Jesus gave. It is a sign! A sign of what Jesus can and will do when we let him into our lives. Jesus has great blessings in store for all of us if we will have the faith and the courage to heed the words of Mary about her Son. “Do whatever he tells you.”
We believe in a God of love, of God who does the extraordinary. Yes it is good to make plans, but let us remember, that God also has plans for us too. Let us try to leave some room to allow God a place in our lives, that God can share our lives and transform our lives too. With faith, Jesus can change the ordinary water of life in the extraordinary wine of God’s life in us. With God, our best days are always still to come.