A belated Happy New Year! The year is getting underway now; our families are returning from holidays and preparing for school and work in the year ahead. At a time like this, the lectionary appears to be “getting underway” as well. Over this coming week, we will observe different gospel characters and crowds being somewhat taken aback by Jesus’ radical way of operating. The reading cycle for this liturgical year wastes zero time: we went from Jesus being born as the new Messianic King in Luke’s gospel, straight into Jesus as an adult in ministry. We have in effect gone straight from first gear to sixth gear.
The characters in this week’s gospels find themselves too going from first to sixth gear. Today John, seemingly in passing, tells those around him that, over there walking around and about the area is the Messiah. On Monday, Jesus is quizzed for why his followers don’t fast; he has an answer. On Tuesday, Jesus is quizzed on why his disciples are lax with Sabbath rules around food; he has an answer. On Wednesday, Jesus heals a man on a Sabbath; he has to defend himself and he is not happy. On Thursday, Jesus is in full swing, healing and exorcizing demons and people flock to him from in droves. On Friday, Jesus goes ahead and picks his 12 apostles. Finally on Saturday, Jesus’ relatives think he has gone mad; he is not taking precautions with his rowdy fans drawn by his rock star status.
For the idea of an arc running through the week, I am indebted here to my confrere Fr. Ashwin Acharya. He hosts a podcast channel called, Suspended in the Word. The channel seeks to draw the narrative arc, which carries over each Sunday to draw forth the emerging picture, building over the year. The committee that arranged the readings themselves also maintained some program: This year the lectionary stays faithful to the structure of the gospel. During Ordinary Time, we will journey from Sundays dedicated to the sermons on the Mount; to ones about instructions to his missionaries; to ones about parables; to those about the Church ending in weeks 32 to 34 in passages about the end times. Interleaved between these clusters are other topics, which do not require detailing here.
Why do I bother telling you this? Because we are all disciples – students – of Christ. We may be separated by time and death, but we stand with the first Disciples of Christ through baptism. What we are not, are spectators. Through the gospel’s program, Christ teaches you and me as much as he taught his contemporaries. It is not for nothing that we end our readings with “The Word of the Lord!”
Some questions, then, that we may contemplate are: How am I transforming over the weeks as I learn from Christ through the readings and homilies at Mass? How do I integrate what I learn? Do I need to journal? What does homework and preparation look like for me? I have heard these readings my whole life – what am I doing to hear them in a fresh way this year? I, Fr. Francis, include myself in these questions.
To integrate Jesus’ teachings and challenges into our faith is to prepare ourselves for the times when God breaks into our lives, or the parish embarks in a new direction of Catholic living (I think of our strategic plan here). Our learning and integrating prepare us for those moments when we jump from first gear to sixth gear.
I look forward to our adventure together as Jesus Christ’s disciples on the Sunshine Coast in 2023!
Fr Francis Fernandes