Reflections on the Daily Readings

January 24 - 30, 2021
The Season of Ordinary Time - The Third Week
Readings: Sunday Cycle B; Weekday Cycle I.
Divine Office - Psalter Week III.

Sunday 24:          The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 24; 1Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
Our readings today call on us to repent and to change our ways, reminding us that the pleasures of this earthly life are fleeting and constantly changing, whereas only the Word of God can bring us everlasting happiness. In the first reading we see the prophet Jonah being sent to Nineveh to preach the Word of God there. The author speaks of the enormous size of the city, of its wickedness, and of this lone prophet who uses a very short sentence to change the hearts of the people. The passage uses exaggeration to demonstrate the conversion which takes place in a very short time but which is total and reaches from the court of the king to the animals in the field.
In the gospel passage from St Mark, we see Jesus begin his public ministry with the words ‘The kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News’. These are words very similar to the message his cousin, John the Baptist, had used in preparing the way for the Lord. This comes just after John had been arrested and so John is about to disappear from the scene while Jesus will become more prominent. Last week, in the passage from St John, we read of Andrew and Peter becoming the Lord’s disciples, and today we read Mark’s account of that and of the call of James and John. The key thing to note is their immediate response to the Lord: they leave behind their occupations and follow him though they don’t know where that will take them. By virtue of our baptism we are each called to serve the Lord as did the people of Nineveh and the first disciples. We are challenged to say the words of today’s Psalm with conviction – ‘Lord, make me know your ways . . . make me walk in your truth’.
St Paul tells the Corinthians in the second reading that the world as they know it was passing away and this was because Paul, like so many others, expected the Lord to return in their lifetime and for the world to end. He, therefore, advised the people not to become attached to anything in this world because it would soon be gone and new life in Christ would begin, and attachments to the things of this world could jeopardise the new life with Christ. We know that the Lord did not return when expected and the world did not end, but the life of each of us is still infinitely small in the life of the earth. Therefore, we should dedicate ourselves to the Lord and place our faith and trust in him for he lasts forever, unlike the things of this world, and so secure our place in eternal life.

Monday 25:         Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, Apostle*
Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22; Psalm 116; Mark 16:15-18
Today we celebrate the conversion of one of the greatest persecutors of the early Christian Church and the two texts from the Acts of the Apostles recount the moment when the Lord himself appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus. The first account is told by Paul himself and he begins by reminding the people that he was a faithful Jew, and a Pharisee, who persecuted the early Christians.
The second account is told from a historical perspective. It was not unusual for the Jews of the time to have a traditional Jewish name and a Roman equivalent, and so we have Saul and the Roman name of Paul. The key is that the Apostle to the Gentiles now goes by his Roman name showing that he has left his old way of life behind, and has devoted himself completely to the Christian Way. The Psalm takes up the instruction found in our gospel for today.
Our gospel text is a post-resurrection encounter between Jesus and the Eleven, and in the passage he tells them to ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation’. The Lord gives them power and authority and the gift of tongues so that the message may be spread far and wide. That same instruction is given to us in our own day, but we will only be effective in that duty if we ourselves are converted daily to the gospel. As the Lord called Saul to conversion, he is calling us also, though not necessarily as obviously as he called Saul.

Tuesday 26:         Memorial of Sts Timothy and Titus, Bishops*
2Timothy 1:1-8 or Titus 1:1-5; Psalm 95; Luke 10:1-9
In our first reading today from the second letter to Timothy, we see the author describe Timothy as someone who was sincere in the faith, and traces the faith in Timothy’s family. The author was writing to him to encourage him to work to increase his faith, to ‘fan into a flame the gift which God gave’ him. That gift was something powerful with which to spread the faith, work which, the author said, may at times result in hardship for Timothy for the sake of the Good News, but for which he was not to be embarrassed or ashamed.
In the alternative reading from the letter to Titus, we see the author saying that St Paul himself (in whose name letter is written) had been commissioned by God to spread the Good News, a message which contains the assurance of eternal life promised by God. In his turn, Paul commissioned Titus to organise the new religion on the island of Crete. The Psalm is a reminder to the two saints to ‘Proclaim the wonders of the Lord among all the peoples’.
Our gospel text from St Luke sees Jesus sending out the seventy-two to preach in his name and to bring his healing power to others. He gives them instructions about what they are to do and say, and he reminds them that there will be difficulties as he is sending them out ‘like lambs among wolves’. There is also the reminder that the harvest is rich but the labourers are few, and still today that is very true, and so the example of Timothy and Titus is placed before us as an encouragement to follow their dedication and the example of the Apostles, and so go out and spread the Good News in our own small corner of the world.

Wednesday 27:    Of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 10:11-18; Psalm 110; Mark 4:1-20
Speaking of the priests of his day, the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us in today’s reading that the sin offerings they made were insufficient for taking sins away. Christ’s offering of himself on the other hand, is perfect and does redeem us, making us perfect in the eyes of God. No more sin offerings are necessary because all sins have been forgiven. Today’s Gospel text contains the story of the sower whose seed fell in various places. Some of the seed died, more of it produced a great crop. The seed, of course, is the word of God being planted in our hearts – in some people it will take root while in others it will be ignored. We are being challenged in this text to look closely at our own lives and our own response to God and we are asked to make a better effort in order to produce a harvest worthy of the redemption Christ won for us.

Thursday 28:       Memorial of St Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Doctor of the Church*
Hebrews 10:19-25; Psalm 116; Mark 4:21-25
We are told in the first reading that now that our sins have been wiped away we can enter into the sanctuary ourselves. We do so through the door which is Christ himself. However, in order to be fit to enter, we are reminded that we must be pure and with a clear conscience. Our sins may have been washed away but we must still be on our guard and keep our souls spotless. Jesus tells his listeners in the Gospel that nobody lights a lamp and then hides it away: they light the lamp to give light to themselves and to others. The readings challenge us to realise that we too are like lamps – if we hide away our faith then the kingdom of God will not be seen. By letting others see that we are Christians we will be helping them to grow in the faith and we will also be making ourselves more worthy to enter the sanctuary.

Friday 29:            Of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 10:32-39; Psalm 95; Mark 4:26-34
The Hebrews are reminded in today’s first reading that when they first accepted the Good News they suffered for it, but they got through the suffering. They are told that having come through this suffering they must still remain faithful even when there is nothing to challenge the faith. They must remain faithful for ever. In the Gospel we see that Jesus continues to use parables to teach the people. Today he tells them that the kingdom grows silently and without ceasing, just as seeds grow silently and constantly in the ground. From small beginnings, the kingdom will grow like the mustard seed which, being the smallest of all seeds, grows to be the biggest shrub of all. Both readings challenge us to keep watch over our soul and to strengthen our faith. If we live a life of faith then our own faith will grow and with it the kingdom of God and the faith of those around us.

Saturday 30:        Of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; Psalm – Luke 1:69-75; Mark 4:35-41
Today, the author of the first reading uses the example of Abraham and Sarah to teach us about faith. Abraham was told that he would be the father of a great nation even though Sarah was barren. Sarah too believed that she would give birth because God had said it. They also moved to a different country at God’s command. They did so because they believed and because they believed they were rewarded and the promises made to them were fulfilled. In the Gospel, we see Jesus and the disciples out on the lake when a storm blows up. The disciples, terrified, waken him and he calms the storm, showing that he has power over the forces of nature. Both of our readings today challenge us to live by faith. Because the disciples had weak faith they were terrified in the boat even in the presence of their Saviour. Abraham and Sarah on the other hand, lived by strong faith and received a great reward. We too will be rewarded for living by faith and for helping to strengthen the faith of others.

Memorials this Week:
January 25:         Feast of the Conversion of St Paul the Apostle
Paul (also known by his Jewish name Saul) was born in Tarsus in Cilicia in modern-day Turkey. He was educated and was a Pharisee which meant that he was well acquainted with both the Law and the Scriptures, which is evident in his writings. As a faithful Jew, he persecuted the early Christians until he was struck down on his way to Damascus (in modern-day Syria) to arrest some Christians. In this incident, the Risen Lord appeared to Paul and from then on Paul becomes the greatest champion of the faith and is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. He met with St Peter and the other Apostles in Jerusalem on a number of occasions and undertook three great missionary journeys to spread the faith. These journeys took him through Palestine but also through Syria, Turkey, Crete, Greece and Malta. During some of these journeys he funded himself through his work as a tent maker. Eventually Paul ended up in Rome where, even under house arrest, he spread the faith and wrote some of the letters found in the New Testament to the churches he had founded on his travels and also to individuals, to bolster their faith. These letters also contain Paul’s understanding of who Jesus Christ is and the importance of the death and resurrection of Christ. He was beheaded during the persecutions in the reign of Emperor Nero.

January 26:         Memorial of Sts Timothy & Titus, Bishops
Very little is known about these two saints who were companions and disciples of St Paul, who is said to have written three letters to them and which are part of the canon of sacred scripture. Timothy was made bishop of Ephesus (in western Turkey) while still very young and is said to have been beaten and stoned to death in 97ad for fighting against heathen worship. Titus was made bishop of Crete in the Mediterranean, though he still went on missions for Paul from time to time, but always returned to Crete where he eventually died.

January 28:         Memorial of St Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Doctor of the Church
Thomas was born in 1225 and was educated by the Benedictine monks of Monte Cassino on the western coast of Italy between Rome and Naples, before joining the Dominican Order (the Order of Preachers) in 1244, and continuing his studies in Paris, France, and Cologne, Germany. He spent his life teaching and writing in France and Italy and his two major works – the ‘Summa Contra Gentiles’ and the ‘Summa Theologica’ – are still studied today for the significance and depth of their theology and philosophy. He died at the age of 49 while on his way to the second Oecumenical Council of Lyons in 1274. He is the patron saint of universities and schools.

© P. Breen, O.Carm. 2011, 2013
The Reflections above are available in printed form in:
Reflections on the Readings for every day of the Church's year.
Patrick J. Breen, O.Carm. Dublin: Columba Press. 2011. ISBN 978 1 85607 732 3.

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