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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 16, 2011

Taking a backseat to someone who is more influential is not easy, especially when you have been the head honcho. Last week, we watched John baptize Jesus of Nazareth so Scripture could be fulfilled. Matthew reported John to say "He must increase; I must decrease." John' ministry was more substantial than was Jesus and he now had the challenge of disbanding his followers and pointing them to the promised One.

You can bet John's followers were reluctant to stray from the one who gave them so much hope and courage and urged them to prepare for the coming of the kingdom. It is one thing to dream for something to come true, but many times we don't know what to do when the dream stands right before us within reach. The dream can be more enticing than the reality. Many are disillusioned that the dream is not realized in the way they imagined it to be.

Today, John says his role was to make Jesus known. He points to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John is evoking the image of the Passover lamb who will protect his people and will lead them out of their slavery to sin and death into a new state of freedom. Jesus will be for the people both the Good Shepherd and the perfect lamb who is sacrificed for the sins of many.

By pointing out Jesus to his own disciples, he is asking them to behold him. When we behold someone, we spend time contemplating the person. We ad-mire (look to) the person in honor and reverence and by doing so, we bless the person. We notice the special qualities in the other. We sanctify what we bless. God blesses his special servant in Isaiah's 49th chapter through whom God's glory is shown. Something of the one who beholds is able to shine through the beheld one.

I find the prayer is more fruitful when we preface it with a brief beholding exercise. Just as we may gaze upon an icon, we ask God to gaze upon us as we begin our prayer. We ask God to hold us, see us, feel us, hear us, and know what we are feeling. When God does that, he honors us. This is a beautifully confident way to begin. We can then more easily share what we feel when we know God listens to us.

After God beholds us, we then ask for the grace to behold God as God beholds us. Though it is circular, it is quite a consoling image for us to see God gazing upon us - in amazement, wonder, and care. At this moment, we are only concerned about our present situation and we pay attention to God's immediate presence to us. It is simple and streamlined and it answers many of the deep questions we have, like does God personally care about me? If God is present to us as we begin, the question takes care of itself.

John's act of beholding allows his disciples to wonder more fully about Jesus. They are able to contemplate him while also holding John is wonder. We are much happier, much freer when we appreciate the goodness we encounter in others. This goodness far outweighs any criticisms we may find. Live your week honoring, blessing, beholding others and you will find that you possess much more joy than you imagined.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Hebrews continues its statement that Christ is the high priest in the lineage of Melchizedek of old. His priesthood is a human one who knows our every weakness. He is able to offer himself to God with prayer and supplications. We know God hears him for he learned obedience for what he suffered. God knows of our work and love and for our eagerness for the fulfillment of hope. We can be sure that God wants to make us heirs of the promise. Melchizedek, priest and king of Salem (peace), was made to resemble God. He remains forever. Jesus suffered a sacrifice for all when he offered himself. By becoming our new high priests, he has established a new covenant that makes the old one obsolete. He entered once for all into the sanctuary with his own blood.

Gospel: As we follow Mark's Gospel this year, we resume with people asking Jesus about his fasting practices. Even John's disciples fasted. Jesus also ate the grain on a Sabbath and was questioned again. In the synagogue, a man with a withered hand was brought to Jesus as a test. Regardless of the Sabbath observance, Jesus heals the man because he was suffering. Jesus withdrew towards the sea with his people and all the regions of Palestine and beyond were swarming to him to be cured and to listen to his teachings. The unclean spirits recognized him as the Son of God. He then went up to a mountain and called those he wanted and appointed them as the Twelve. They were to go forth to preach and have authority over demons. When he returned home, his relatives said that he is out of his mind and they set out to seize him and talk some sense into him.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Anthony, Abbot (251-356) was a wealthy Egyptian who gave his inheritance away to become a hermit. Many sought him out for his wisdom and holiness. After leading an ascetic life of solitude, he gathered his followers and founded the first monastic community.

Thursday: Fabian, pope and martyr (d. 250) was elected as Pope as a layman and a foreigner to Rome. A dove landed on his head and the crowds were excited because it reminded them of the dove's descent upon the head of Jesus after his baptism. He was martyred in a persecution after being the pope for 14 years.

Sebastian, martyr (d. 300) is a popular saint among artists who will paint him with arrows piercing his body. His life is the stuff of legends and fiction. He was killed in Rom and buried in the catacombs. Ambrose wrote that Sebastian hailed from Milan.

Friday: Agnes, martyr (d. 305) was a Roman martyr who was married at age 12 during a Roman persecution. Since her name is similar to angus, lamb, she is always pictured with a lamb. She became a symbol of innocence during her sacrifice.

Saturday: Vincent, deacon (d.304) preached in Saragossa, Spain and spearheaded the almsgiving and charitable works. His organized relief efforts gained notice of the Romans who arrested and tortured him. He was killed when he refused to worship the pagan Roman gods.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Jan 16, 1656. At Meliapore, the death of Fr. Robert de Nobili, nephew of Cardinal Bellarmine. Sent to the Madura mission, he learned to speak three languages and for 45 years labored among the high caste Brahmins.
• Jan 17, 1890. Benedict Sestini died. He was an astronomer, editor, architect, mathematician, and teacher at Woodstock College.
• Jan 18, 1615. The French Jesuits began a mission in Danang, Vietnam.
• Jan 19, 1561. In South Africa, the baptism of the powerful King of Monomotapa, the king's mother, and 300 chiefs by Fr. Goncalvo de Silveira.
• Jan 20, 1703. At Paris, the death of Fr. Francis de la Chaise, confessor to Louis XIV and a protector of the French Church against the Jansenists.
• Jan 21, 1764. Christophe de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, wrote a pastoral defending the Jesuits against the attacks of Parliament. It was ordered to be burned by the public executioner.
• Jan 22, 1561. Pius IV abrogated the decree of Paul II and kept the life term of Father General.

Where did the First Sunday go?

The Baptism of the Lord is celebrated as the last day of Christmas while the day that follows is the first Monday in Ordinary Time. At the end of the week, we celebrate the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time without every celebrating the First Sunday. Isn't that odd?

Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered on this day for his great advancement of civil rights for those African-Americans who were deprived of basic civil liberties. His dream inspired many to work for justice. His civil actions led to a social revolution for the U.S. and beyond. His work paved the way for other minorities to claim their voice and demand basic civil rights against a majority that has the capability to squash their concerns. We continue to pray for greater social equality throughout our nation and we honor those leaders who put their lives in danger to stand up for the rights of others.


  1. Fr. I find the beholding exercise to be simple and meaningful. I hope to use it pre-prayer. Allowing God to behold me...see, hear, and feel me... it puts me in place where I can feel his love. Then asking for the grace to behold God puts me in God's immediate presence, then I am able to share what's in my heart.

    "He must increase, I must decrease" is something I've been saying for the last couple of weeks. Letting go of "me" being the center of everything is something I want, but have to work on.

    Also, appreciate the idea of looking for the goodness that surrounds me and avoid criticizing people and situations.

    Thank you Fr. May you grow in peace, jer...

  2. Thanks, Jerry. This exercise helps me settle into each of my prayers and it helps me lift my feeings to Christ. For me, prayer is sharing who I authentically am to God's true self and receiving God's heart in return.