Immersed in Christ: January 15, 2021
Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 4:1-11; Psalm 78; Mark 2:1-12.
“Do not forget the works of the Lord.”
The Responsorial reminds us that we are a people with a history, and God uses that history to teach us. We need to read, to remember, to reflect on how God dealt with those who went before us; how they responded to him, what the fruits of their responses, good and bad, encourage us to do or warn us against doing. Our “today” is yesterday pointing us toward tomorrow.
Hebrews reminds us that God has made promises. “Do not forget the works of the Lord.” Or his words. The “promise of entrance into his rest still holds.” Others heard the good news before us, “but the word which they heard did not profit them, for they did not receive it in faith.” But for us there is still “Today.”
Learn from the past: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” The “rest” God promised was not just the Promised Land into which Joshua led the people. “For if Joshua had led them into this place of rest, God would not later have spoken about another day.” Our tomorrow is still to come. We need to let yesterday enlighten our today: “Let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall in imitation of the example of Israel’s unbelief.”
We can hear words read at Mass, and dutifully mouth the words of the Responsorial Psalm. But it is possible that neither the words we hear nor the words we speak will do us any good at all. Others have heard and are hearing the same words, and perhaps have spoken the same response. “But the words they heard did not profit them, for they did not receive them in faith.”
To receive words with faith means to take them seriously. To ask ourselves whether we have understood them. Whether we appreciate what they say. Whether we intend to do anything.
When God communicates his word, he expects a response... of listening and adoring “in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). The Holy Spirit makes that response effective, so that what is heard in the celebration of the Liturgy may be carried out in a way of life: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).1
The Responsorial Psalm which follows the first reading is intended to help us do this — if we listen to what we are saying and try to absorb it.
The Responsorial Psalm... is an integral part of the liturgy of the word and holds great liturgical and pastoral importance, because it promotes meditation on the Word of God.... If the psalm cannot be sung, then it should be recited in a way more suited to fostering meditation.... 2
In his “Parable of the Sower,” Jesus gives three reasons why his words sometimes have no effect. Some fall on the “beaten path” of cultural assumptions and just never sink in. Others fall on the “shallow ground” of people who don’t think deeply about them — not deeply enough to come to any decision. And some are well received but then get choked out by competing desires: the “cares of the world and the attraction of money.” Today, just like yesterday, “the word which they hear does not profit them, for they do not receive it in faith.” The question is, will we? Do we have enough faith in Jesus to take his three reasons seriously and ask if they are blocking our own response to his words?
Meditation: 1. Do I expect God’s words to challenge values I grew up with? 2. Do I think about them until I reach decisions? 3. What blocks my response?