Unlike Advent, Lent, Christmas or Easter, each of which has a discernible theme and associated scripture selections that get to the point or ‘hit the ground running’ with the beginning of each season, I’ve always felt that Ordinary Time sputters and stalls in the beginning as the Church transitions into the liturgical time.
This is most apparent to me in what seems like the ostensible smörgasbord of scripture passages that do not present as close a coherent theme as, say, Advent or Lent. Instead, we are offered snippets of epistles, selections of the Gospels and prophetic texts from the Hebrew Scriptures that — at first — appear disconnected.
But today, as I reflected on the Gospel, which seemed to fit this type of category perfectly, I began to realize that it is precisely in the seeming discontinuity that one finds a pattern and quasi-theme that helps situate the text as it also helps orient the reader/listener.
Today’s Gospel from the Good News according to Mark is as transitional a passage as one finds. It comes to us at a key moment in the Gospel narrative between the introduction of Jesus and his mission, exhibited best in his work as a healer and preacher announcing the Kingdom of God, and what is to come in his suffering, death and resurrection.
There are several themes that come across as perennial evangelical motifs that appear in Mark’s account time and again. The theme of Jesus’s occasional withdrawal, often in solitiude. The theme of the powerful deeds of Jesus in the healings and exorcisms he performs as a sign of his malkuth YHWH (God’s reign). The theme of his Sonship, which the demons acknowledge but Jesus silences, that is found in both the very beginning (1:1) and the end (14:62; 15:39) of Mark’s Gospel.
What at first seems to be immaterial and irrelevant becomes a short story laden with key Gospel themes about who God is and who we are to be. In the season of Ordinary Time, we too are called to withdrawal, often in solitude, to reconnect with God and reflect on where we’ve come. We too are called to work with God to help provide signs to our world of God’s reign and the in-breaking of the Kingdom by our words and deeds. We too are called to recognize in Jesus his Sonship and, through his Sonship, our very filial relationship to the Creator.
As we reflect, we also plan. This transitional passage doesn’t just cull from what came before, but points to the future and anticipates what is to come. So should we. Ordinary Time is not a time of irrelevance or banality, but a time for reflection and planning in the spirit of the Gospel life. Let’s live that life!
The Gospel of Mark (3:7-12)
Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.
He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him.
He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him. And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, “You are the Son of God.” He warned them sternly not to make him known.