[Homily. Assumption Chapel, 13 January 2019.]
Today, as Taal erupts, Australia continues to burn, and the people of Iran explodes in protest after learning that its military had shot down a Ukrainian plane erroneously, we begin Ordinary Time in this liturgical year.
Ordinary Time is the time outside the Advent and Christmas cycle and outside the Lenten and Easter Cycle.
This year, we will celebrate seven weeks of Ordinary Time before Ash Wednesday. After Pentecost, we will continue with Ordinary Time in June until the 34th Sunday in Ordinary time at the end of November, the Feast of Christ the King.
Yesterday, our remembrance of the Baptism of the Lord was a celebration of another of the Lord’s major manifestations. On Christmas, he was manifested to us as Emmanuel, God with us, as a babe in the manger. On the feast of the Epiphany, he was manifested to us as a Savior not only for the Jews but also for the gentiles represented by wise men of different nations and creeds. On the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, he was manifested to us by Isaiah as the special “servant of the Lord”, the “chosen one in whom the Lord delights” who will “make justice appear in truth” (cf Is 42:1), “a Covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness” (Is 42: 6b-7).
In yesterday’s Gospel, the manifestation of Jesus continues in his identification with sinners through his acceptance of the baptism of John, despite the initial vigorous objection of John. Upon his baptism, the heavens open, the Spirit of God rests on him, and the Father manifests from the heavens, “This is my Son, the Beloved, he is my Chosen one” (Mk 1:11). He is “the new Covenant,” through whom the Father gives himself in love to his people, and through whom the people shall give themselves in love to the Father. The Christmas cycle brings us to this already startling manifestation. The Easter cycle will bring us to an even more profound manifestation of this “Covenant.” It is through the blood of Jesus, the new Covenant, that we are freed from our sins and lifted up to the Father. We are invited then, as at every Mass: “Take this all of you and drink of it. For this is my Blood of the new and eternal Covenant which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Outside of the Christmas and Easter cycle, in the ordinary time, we continue with the contemplation of Jesus, the way, the Truth, and the Life, in his preaching, healing and liberating activity on earth. We are invited to pray for the grace to get to know him more intimately through our contemplations of his mysteries and through our daily conversations with him. It is in this season that we are invited to enter more fully into the new Covenant, who is Jesus. As the Father says yes to us in Jesus through the Spirit, so are we invited to say yes to the Father in Jesus through the Spirit.
In the Ordinary Time, we encounter Jesus teaching, preaching, healing and liberating. Our Gospel summarizes his main message, “The time has come. The time is now. The kingdom of God is at hand. Turn away from your sins and believe in the Good News that I bring” (Mk 1:15). That is no ordinary message. In this world it is not all injustice, it is not all lies and fake news. I come to “make justice appear in truth.” In this world, it is not all darkness for the nations, endless wars, endless recrimination, endless killing, endless pursuit of interests that betray the common good. I come as “a light to the nations to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness.” Not all accept me. But to those who do they are empowered to be children of God.
In Ordinary Time we encounter Jesus approaching ordinary fishermen. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of women and men” (Mk 1:17). The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. He sends ordinary people like you and me to enter the field to bring in the harvest. To bring to Jesus those who sit in darkness, who are disappointed with life, who have been unfairly bypassed, who are convinced there is no forgiveness for their sin. To bring to Jesus even those who are affected by volcanoes, fires, earthquakes and all the tragedies of the human condition. Perhaps, today, at the beginning of ordinary time, you may consider his call. “If you hear his voice,” the Psalmist says, “harden not your hearts!” (Ps 95). His call is nothing ordinary. It is, in fact, a great grace. If you say yes to it, you are in for quite an extraordinary experience. Through your lives, you will show people God’s kindness. In God’s kindness, you will be an instrument of their salvation.