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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 21, 2018


Traducir al Español

By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

When we write a thesis paper, we begin with the topic sentence, then go on to make points that support our position.  Today we hear the topic sentence for the Gospel of Mark: “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  The Gospel of Mark goes on to argue that in Jesus – in his person and his ministry – the Reign of God is revealed.  Jesus opens us to the Reign of God in his words and his his works.

In his parables, Jesus opens us to the mystery of the Reign of God.  For example, Jesus tells the story of the seed growing on its own.  A farmer sows seeds in his field.  Day after day the seed grows but the farmer doesn’t know how.  The seedling sprouts, then produces a stock, then the grain, and finally the grain matures.  “When the crop is ready he wields the sickle for the time is ripe for the harvest.”  This parable compares clock time, chronos in Greek with kairos a moment of meaning and opportunity.  The Reign of God is a mystery but we must be ready to recognize its appearance and be ready to harvest its fruit.

 

Jesus opens us to the Reign of God in his works.  In Mark chapter 7,  people bring to Jesus a man who is deaf and mute.  Jesus touches the man and says ephatha, in Aramaic, “be opened.” Now, was Jesus only commanding the man’s ears to be open and his tongue to be loosed – or was he also addressing the person – be open to me and to the presence and power of God?  To be saved has a double meaning: Jesus not only wants us to go to heaven, but Jesus wants us to be healthy and whole in this life.  Jesus worked wonders to open us to God’s saving action among us.

The Gospel of Mark over and over demonstrates the power and authority of Jesus as the Son of God.  When Jesus heals, he demonstrates his power over illness.  When Jesus expels demons he shows his power over evil.  When Jesus calms the storm he demonstrates his power over nature.  Ultimately, when Jesus rises from the dead he reveals his power over death.  This is why we must repent to believe in the Good News.  We turn from our feeble powers to the power of God in Jesus.  Believing in Jesus is more than the assent of the mind – even demons knew Jesus was the Son of God when he expelled them.  Believing in Jesus is turning our life over to him in adoration,  in love, and in trust.

 

When Jesus calls Simon and Andrew, and James and John they drop everything and follow him.  This inspires us to leave behind our former way of life to follow Jesus in his ways – to progress on our spiritual journey.  I have always felt bad for Zebedee because suddenly he loses his sons in his fishing business to the ministry of Jesus.  Perhaps this speaks to how we are losing our sons and daughters – not to the ministry of Jesus but to the world.  When persons ages 20 to 25 are surveyed, the greatest religious affiliation they declare is “none.”  That means there are more “nones” in this age group than Catholics.  In the Church of St. James there must be 10 old people to every young person.  If this trend continues we will be a much smaller church in 10 or 20 years.  How are we to respond?

 

In my Faith Sharing group we discussed a Benedictine response.  In the Feudal Age of Europe, Benedictine monasteries preserved the faith when the world was characterized by darkness and violence.  The Benedictine strengths of community and prayer are a beacon in the darkness of the world and Benedictine stability is valued when the world is marked by transience.

There is also the Franciscan response where the simplicity and generosity of our lives is an inspiration to others.  To identify with the poor and the sick and to serve their needs is to transform society from the bottom up.

 

Then there is the Jesuit response where we transform society from the top down.  St. Ignatius of Loyola taught his disciples how to recognize good and how to recognize evil and to teach that to those who are influential in society.  Through education and formation, Jesuits teach influential people to promote what is good, true, beautiful, and just in society.

 

Maybe you will create a new response to the decline of our culture and we will name it after you – that is an option.   What is not an option is to sit on the sidelines when there is a moment of crisis and opportunity in our times.  My dear brothers and sisters, because the presence and power of Jesus is among us we must repent and believe in the gospel.  We must be ready to recognize the Reign of God in our midst and wield our sickle.