Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday of the first week of Ordinary Time

Blessed William Carter (d. 1584)

Born in London, William Carter entered the printing business at an early age. For many years he served as apprentice to well-known Catholic printers, one of whom served a prison sentence for persisting in the Catholic faith. William himself served time in prison following his arrest for "printing lewd [i.e., Catholic] pamphlets" as well as possessing books upholding Catholicism. But even more, he offended public officials by publishing works that aimed to keep Catholics firm in their faith. Officials who searched his house found various vestments and suspect books, and even managed to extract information from William's distraught wife. Over the next 18 months William remained in prison, suffering torture and learning of his wife's death. He was eventually charged with printing and publishing the Treatise of Schisme, which allegedly incited violence by Catholics and which was said to have been written by a traitor and addressed to traitors. While William calmly placed his trust in God, the jury met for only 15 minutes before reaching a verdict of "guilty." William, who made his final confession to a priest who was being tried alongside him, was hanged, drawn and quartered the following day: January 11, 1584. He was beatified in 1987.

It didn’t pay to be Catholic in Elizabeth I’s realm. In an age when religious diversity did not yet seem possible, it was high treason, and practising the faith was dangerous. William gave his life for his efforts to encourage his brothers and sisters to keep up the struggle. These days, our brothers and sisters also need encouragement—not because their lives are at risk, but because many other factors besiege their faith. They look to us.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark (1: 14-20)

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. The time has come, he said. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news! As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

God's Kingdom
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

One of most central ideas of the Gospel is the idea of the Kingdom. It comes from the lips of our Lord himself. He commenced his preaching with the proclamation that the Kingdom of God was very imminent. Throughout his preaching, the Kingdom of God was never far from his speech. In our Gospel today, marking the beginning of the Ordinary Time of the Liturgical Year when we immerse ourselves in our Lord’s public ministry and teaching, we think of him proceeding in earnest now that John had been arrested. He "went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. The time has come, he said. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news." The Kingdom had been at the forefront of the Angel Gabriel’s message to Mary, the mother of Christ, before he was conceived. "The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David. He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1: 32-33). These words would have filled the mind and heart of Mary as her child was growing up. In the Gospel of Matthew, the wise men had come from the East to honour " the King of the Jews." That this was a reference to the coming Messiah was evident to the chief priests and scribes of Jerusalem whom Herod consulted, because they were able to identify where he should be born. It was to Bethlehem that the Magi were directed to go (Matthew 2:2-6). Both Mary and Joseph knew that their child was the long predicted Messiah, the Ruler of the eternal Kingdom of God. I like to imagine them, in subdued and religious tones, quietly referring to it at night at the end of the working day. As the child became a youth, a young man, in full maturity, and then on the threshold of the momentous work, the thought would have filled his mind and heart. His mission was to establish the grand and eternal Kingdom in which God would rule over all. All were called to be its citizens, and he, Jesus, would be its Lord and King - the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, with all authority in heaven and on earth.

The idea of a king means little in the modern world. It has lost its power as an image because the modern king, where present in the life of a nation, is largely an office of ceremony. The modern monarch may open parliament, sign certain documents and ceremoniously give his assent to legislation passed by the majority party in power. Were he to refuse to sign such a decree, he may have to abdicate. On April 5, 1990, the king of Belgium refused to sign a new law passed by the civilian parliament permitting abortion. It was one of the few functions of the monarch, and King Baudouin I refused to sign on grounds of personal conscience. So he was temporarily suspended as monarch, the law was promulgated by Cabinet, and the king was then re-instated by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate in special session. The event illustrated the high moral character of that particular king, and also the merely ceremonial nature of his office. The notion of a king evokes indifference in the mind of modern man. But this is a modern phenomenon, and if we are to appreciate the teaching of Sacred Scripture we must enter into the spirit of biblical times. The Messiah-King was a powerful image, and it had even been picked up beyond the chosen people - other nations had heard of a coming King, and the visit of the Magi is a dim reflection of this. The idea of a Kingdom, a Realm, could embody all the dreams of an individual and a people. The idea of the Kingdom of God did embody this, and it represented all that God promised to do for his people, and through them for the world. It would be the fulfilment of his promise to Abraham that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed. And so it is that Christ announcesthe Kingdom. It is the fulfilment of all the prophecies. What was to become gradually revealed was that all the blessings of this Kingdom were to be found in the King himself. By knowing him and by living in communion with him all the blessings of heaven would be received. As St Paul writes, in Christ is every heavenly blessing. Salvation consists in union with him.

Being a citizen of this eternal Kingdom means following the person of Jesus through all of life. As our Lord says to Simon and Andrew, "Follow me, and I will make you into fishers of men" (Mark 1: 14-20). At the end of his earthly mission, he would tell these same disciples to go to the whole world and make disciples of all the nations. Those who believed would be saved. Those who wilfully refused would be condemned. Jesus Christ is the heart and soul of the Kingdom which he announces in our Gospel passage today. In today’s Gospel the disciples who were called left all to follow him. Let that be the example we follow all our life.

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