We are blessed to have in Ordinary Time this liturgical year the proclaiming of the short but powerful Gospel of Mark. Mark jumps into Jesus’ story introducing John the Baptist who the evangelist tells us “appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (1:4). Elsewhere, the first recorded words of the Baptist are “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”” (Mt 3:2). In today’s passage (1:14-20), we hear nearly identical words (in the headline from Jesus as He begins His public ministry upon hearing of the arrest of His cousin. It as if Jesus’ is taking John’s mantle and running with it (see my previous post on Elijah and Elisha for the amazing parallels). The arrest of John does not have Jesus shying away from His task but rather signals Him to take over, to increase while John decreases (cf. Jn 3:30). Preparing the way did not end well for John. Jesus knows that a full-throated preaching of the Gospel will not end well for Himself, either. But, like Jeremiah, Jesus’ message “is as if fire is burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding back, I cannot!” (Jer 20:9) How often Jesus must have considered the words of this prophet (see esp. 20:7-19) as His ministry progressed and increasingly met with resistance.
Does the fire burn within us so fiercely that it no longer can be contained? Or does resistance lower our thermostat to our comfort level? You know what the euphemism “returning to room temperature” means, don’t you? Let that not be us until we have fulfilled the mission given to us by the Lord.
BEDE JARRETT ON RIGHTEOUS ANGER
Nearly every day I find precious nuggets from my spiritual reading, again so practical for our times (and again neatly tying in with the exposition above):
Think of the evils that are in the world, that are known to all, admitted to exist by public press and on a public platform. Would they have survived thus far, had folk all shown the indignant anger of Christ [in cleansing the Temple]? Hypocrisy, cant, and the whole blatant injustice that stalks naked and unashamed in national life — may not our own weakness and silence have helped to render impotent all efforts to reduce these terrible things? … But what is the use of conviction or determination unless they are driven by the fire of anger?Bede Jarrett, Classic Catholic Meditations (Manchester, NH: Sophia, 2004), 168.
As mentioned yesterday, lukewarmness only makes God’s stomach turn, so to speak. No use complaining, “How did we get here?,” when so little fuss was made as we helped grease the slippery slope with inaction, ambivalence, or indifference. Let us not be like the proverbial frog who boils unknowingly as the temperature is raised slowly in his water-filled pot. We are meant to jump out of the seemingly safe warm bath into the cold world to ignite the flame of truth and love.
Just finished reading the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible volume on the Book of Judges. A rough period for the Twelve Tribes, to put it mildly. Few highlights or noble behavior in these twenty-one chapters but an interesting study nonetheless. Greasing the skids for the beginning of monarchy. Ruth is next.