Yesterday’s celebration of the Baptism of Jesus marked the end of Christmastide and initiated Ordinary Time which began today. Yesterday’s liturgy helped call to mind the gifts of fire and Spirit which we were given at our baptisms, those supernatural gifts bestowed upon us to help us give witness to the light and truth of Jesus in all that we say and do.
Today’s Gospel was from Mark 1:14-20. I love Mark. He doesn’t waste any time getting to the meat of things. No infancy narrative, no beating around the bush. In the very first chapter, he tells us of John the Baptist’s preaching in verses 1 to 8, about Jesus’ baptism in verses 9 to 11, the Lord’s temptation in the desert in verses 12 and 13, in verse 14 he goes straight into the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and in verse 16 He calls His first disciples. Bam! There it is! He’s off and running!
As I was meditating on today’s passage I wondered if there was an intended purpose in having the temptations in the desert back to back with Jesus’ calling of the first disciples. Probably not, but I thought of a plausible one that could be relevant to us today. We’re ten days into the new year and many of us look back at the last twelve months and wish we had done better at this or that. Many of our perceived faults and failures were direct results of one or more vices: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth. In a sense, these were the temptations we were faced with in a moment of choice, which we probably caved into, and which may have become habits, or else we wouldn’t be trying to correct ourselves.
Our inherent sense of right and wrong tells us we ought to do better during the next trip around the sun. So, we make resolutions to correct these vices with corresponding opposite virtues: humility, charity, chastity, gratitude, temperance, patience, and diligence. We want to improve our diets, get more exercise, enhance our relationships, change some negative behavior, and so on. And maybe, just maybe, that second sense is moving you to become better disciples of Christ and draw more people to Him. To be Fishers of Men and teach your catch to do the same.
Making changes, real and worthwhile changes, is never easy. It’s hard to break bad habits and come face to face with fears and discomforts. These days, one of the hardest habits to break is to pull away from one’s screens. But, we know inside that doing so will give us more time to enhance our relationships with those we love. That’s the first secret of improvement, seeing the good that will come. Similarly, we can see the good, the joy, the feeling of peace, the graces, that will come from living out our calling as disciples. It may not be easy but it will be worth it.
The second secret is to commit to making the change and eliminate the obstacles. To lose weight you stop buying a bucket of ice cream each day so you won’t eat it. So, determine what’s keeping you from approaching other people. Then commit to making a change and draft a plan. Ask yourself what you can do differently. Go to a different mass than you usually go to and meet someone new. Invite them to dinner. Build a friendship. Have good conversation and get to know each other. Invite them to pray a rosary with you. You don’t even have to approach people you don’t know. Just look within your family – people who you already know and love.
Maybe being a better disciple sounds difficult, almost scary. I know what you’re thinking – “You mean I have to talk to people, maybe even non-Christians, about God and my faith? I’ll have to invite them to go to church with me, or a bible study, or pray a rosary with me. What if they turn me down? What if they reject not just my offer but me!?” Just remember yesterday’s Gospel: you were given with your baptism the supernatural gifts to help you give witness to the truth and the light that is Jesus! And, then, if you were confirmed, you were given the virtue of fortitude to help overcome your fear.
I have a friend who begins each year with a resolution to bring three people closer to Christ. Not just any three people but three specific people. He writes down their names. He makes a plan that includes building friendships with them by inviting them into his life. Then, slowly, through their new and trusting relationship, he introduces them to Jesus. I’ve seen it work year after year. A win-win for both parties. Does he get a bite with each cast? No, but he’s fishing instead of just cutting bait and he puts more in the Lord’s creel than most people.
If you’ve already made new resolutions, or if you’re still kicking around ideas, consider what you can do to become a better disciple. Ask God to help you. Certainly resolve to change what needs to change, turn your vices into virtues, so that others can see you living the Christ life. Then commit to bringing someone else closer to Christ as well. It’s a worthy resolution.
“Dear Jesus, I love You, and I would love to bring more people to love You like I do. I can only do so much on my own and I need Your help. Help me, Lord, to realize the confidence, the faith, and the courage You have so graciously and generously infused into me through Your Spirit. Help me to help others desire the same. Amen.”
(A Worthy Resolution was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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