First Week in Ordinary Time/Hillary
1st Reading: 1Sam 4:1-11
The Philistines gathered for an attack on Israel. Israel went out to engage them in battle and camped at Ebenezer, while the Philistines camped at Aphek. The Philistines then drew up in battle formation against Israel. After a fierce struggle Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who slew about four thousand men on the battlefield. When the troops retired to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD permitted us to be defeated today by the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the LORD from Shiloh that it may go into battle among us and save us from the grasp of our enemies.” So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God. When the ark of the LORD arrived in the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth resounded. The Philistines, hearing the noise of shouting, asked, “What can this loud shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” On learning that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp, the Philistines were frightened. They said, “Gods have come to their camp.”
They said also, “Woe to us! This has never happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods that struck the Egyptians with various plagues and with pestilence. Take courage and be manly, Philistines; otherwise you will become slaves to the Hebrews, as they were your slaves. So fight manfully!” The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated; every man fled to his own tent. It was a disastrous defeat, in which Israel lost thirty thousand-foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.
Gospel: Mk 1:40-45
A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.
THE MEN WENT AWAY IN FEAR AND DEFEAT: In the first reading, we see the men walking with a lot of courage when they have the Ark of the covenant. They have God with them. However, they are trying to use God for their selfish gains and God cannot be reduced to this. After the defeat, they flee in fear. In the Gospel, the leper comes to Jesus in awe and in faith. Jesus is moved with pity and saves him. He walks away freed from leprosy. He walks away in confidence and joy of being healed. How do we approach Jesus in the Eucharist? Do we do so in awe and faith, or in arrogance desiring to manipulate God? Let us remember that we can never manipulate God. Let us be honest in our dealings with God and trust him. Indeed, he will heal us.
Prayer: O Lord help us to be your true arks, that people may come to you, making you known and loved.
UNDYING SPIRIT: The leper went to Jesus knelt and begged him saying, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” And immediately the leper was healed by Jesus. One may ask, what moved the leper to ask Jesus to heal him? Was it his grave sickness? No, his leprosy is not the driving force that moved him to seek the help of Jesus. It was the leper’s deep faith in Jesus! And what drove Jesus to heal the leper? Was it his leprosy? No. It was the leper’s great faith in Him! What brings us to Jesus and why do we pray to Jesus? Do we pray to Jesus because of our problems? Are we doing this because of our sickness? Our sickness and our problems must not be the primary reason why we go to pray. It must always be our deep faith in Him! Because the more we are driven by faith to go to Jesus, the bigger our chance of being heard by Him!
BECAUSE EVERY LIFE MATTERS: Jesus is not a trickster perfecting his art, nor attracting more spectators to witness his trade. He cares for every life. When confronted with the image and the prayer of the leper, He is moved with compassion. He gives all his attention and proclaims, “I choose to heal you.” If our faith and expression of our Christian living is confined to liturgy and to the services at church, we stand to lose the very presence of Jesus who cares for each of us. In this way, we reduce our Christianity. May we learn from Jesus who on His way to Calvary spends a whole night in prayer with the Father. He teaches us the essence of the Good News; not mere words but visible actions in God. When within God then we can say like the Senegalese, Baba Dioum, “In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.”