A cardinal in snowFrom the wonder of Christmas and the majesty of Epiphany, our energy (and the Church’s, too) now shifts. We’ve knelt with shepherds and sages, mesmerized by the sight of God-with-us as a helpless child. We’ve heard how this child of peace strikes terror in the hearts of tyrants and dawns like light for those who lived in darkness. We’ve seen the circle widen, as travelers from nations far from Palestine acclaim the child Jesus.

Now the Church begins Ordinary Time. What direction can the Ordinary Time readings of the Sundays in January offer us? Our readings issue a clear call to choose the way of Jesus, who is servant, preacher, healer, prophet, brother to those in misery. The Scriptures summon us to watch him, listen to him, leave the past behind, sit at his feet, follow him in his mission of bringing good news to those hungry for new life. He calls us to be learners and disciples. “Listen up!”

Second Sunday – Isaiah 49; John 1:29–34  This call is greater than we could have imagined. “You are my servant, through whom I show my glory. I will make you a light to the nations, that my dream of shalom, of wholeness, may reach to earth’s ends.” We meet a mature John the Baptist. When still in the womb, he leapt for joy when his mother met the Christ in Mary. Now, older, seasoned, his mission is the same: to reveal the Light. The reason John exists, the reason he preaches and baptizes, is so that the Lamb of God, the Messiah, may be revealed. Christ is the One for whom he exists; his mission is to point others to Jesus.

Am I as clear and committed as the Baptist about my mission to spread Christ’s light and love?
Where do I find myself in these readings?

 Third Sunday – Isaiah 8; Matthew 4:12–23 – Yes, the people in darkness have seen a great light. Their burden is lifted, their gloom dispelled. But the way forward has its challenges. The Baptist is arrested; Jesus begins to preach: “God’s time has come! The reign of God is near!” He calls others to walk and to work with him: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John. He mentors them in discipleship. They teach, heal, console, challenge. Like the angels long before, they proclaim the good news of a God who breaks into history, a God who speaks peace on earth and good will to all peoples.

Will I say yes to Christ’s continuing invitation to co-labor with him to bring about God’s dream?
Where do I find myself in these readings?

The Church begins Ordinary Time. Yet we know that the weeks before us will be anything but ordinary. Our nation and the nations of the world are in turmoil, facing unparalleled challenges. Our fragile earth is groaning in pain.

Those who seek to follow Jesus know that faith is not easy, that love will prevail, and that the urgency of now calls us to action. In the words of a prophet of our own day, Martin Luther King, Jr.,

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
“The time is always right to do what is right.”

People of faith know that we can trust the God of Ordinary Time to show up in the most mundane, even boring, situations – count on it! The Spirit of God will speak, summon, stir things up, day by ordinary day. Let’s quiet our hearts to listen, and steady ourselves to follow.

Sister Regina Bechtle, SC

Sr. ReginaSr. Regina, a writer, retreat leader, speaker, and spiritual director, serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York.  

Image of birds in the snow at Mount Saint Vincent by Margaret Egan, SC