The day after the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the liturgical year of the Church moves into “Ordinary Time.” But there’s nothing ordinary about it. Through the Gospel of Mark, we learn that Jesus began his ministry with a bang.
On Monday, Jesus announced that “the kingdom of God is at hand” and then proceeded to call his first followers, four fishermen (Simon, Andrew, James and John) (Mk 1:16-20).
On Tuesday, Jesus cast out an unclean spirit from a man in the synagogue at Capernaum. And Mark tells us that “his fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.” (Mk 1:28)
On Wednesday, Jesus cured Simon’s mother-in-law and then cured many of the sick in the town. He also drove out many demons (Mk 1:32-34). He continued “preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” (Mk 1:39)
On Thursday Jesus touched a leper and made him clean. The cured leper told everyone about his healing and Jesus became so famous “that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.” (Mk 1:45) But he couldn’t hide because even though “he stayed in deserted places, the people kept coming to him from everywhere.” (Mk 1:45)
On Friday, while Jesus was preaching in a crowded house in Capernaum a paralytic was lowered down through the roof so that Jesus could heal him. Not only did he heal the man of his physical paralysis, but he healed his spiritual paralysis by forgiving his sins. (Mk. 2:5)
The week came to a close on Saturday with Jesus calling Matthew, a tax collector, to be one of his disciples. He then scandalized the establishment by eating and drinking with sinners and when questioned about this astonishing behavior, he said “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mk 2:17)
What a week! Yes, I realize that these events probably did not all happen within one week in Jesus’ time, but we were told about them all during one week in our time. The first week of “Ordinary” time turned out to be quite extraordinary.
Amidst all this intense activity, Mark also tells us that Jesus took time out to pray:
“Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.“ (Mk 1:35)
When I heard the Gospel on Monday, I was astounded as Jesus boldly proclaimed that the kingdom was at hand. He certainly didn't ease into making this proclamation. Then the Gospel on Tuesday amazed me when he cast out the demon from the man in the synagogue. The Gospel on Wednesday recounted more miracles and many healings; but it was when I heard a single sentence right before the end of Wednesday’s Gospel that I understood how all this astonishing work was possible. Jesus rose early to pray. He was well aware of how much there was to do, but none of it could be accomplished without spending time with his father.
I have found that I, too, need to spend time in prayer so I can do the work my father has given me to do. I draw strength from the graces he pours into me at daily Mass and during my prayer time. Often the thought of the things I have to do overwhelms me. But when I mention this to God, he gives me his perspective and that changes everything.
Following Jesus around through the first week of Ordinary time has taught me that no matter how ordinary — or extraordinary — life is, when I take time to pray, I can do anything he asks me to do. Jesus changed the world for everyone who came in contact with him. In fact, he changed everything in the life of every man, woman, and child throughout history. He even changed me.