January 8, 2018
by Rev. Steven Ryan
Creighton University's Dental School
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 305

1 Samuel 1:1-8
Psalms 116:12-13, 14-17, 18-19
Mark 1:14-20

Praying Ordinary Time

For those in the U.S. celebrating the Baptism of the Lord today

Pope Francis on these readings in 2014

It was the summer before I left home for the Jesuit novitiate.  I had just graduated prep school.  My parents and I made a road trip to Yellowstone National Park in the western United States.  It was bittersweet, of course -- time away before a no-longer-a-child left home to follow a dream.  Our lives were on the cusp of major change.

My Dad and I decided to sign on for a commercial white water rafting trip on the Snake River.  What a ride it would be.  Well tucked-in and snug in our raft we set out with our professional guide and boatmen.  Soon a light, cold rain began to fall.  The leader asked if anyone wished to return.  No takers.  We were game.

We were well protected: rain gear, helmets and life jackets.  I would be glad we had them all.

It was a wild wide.  Leaps and splashy crashes.  Dizzying careens and jolts. Which way was forward?  Spray everywhere.  I gripped the safety rope tighter and tighter.

When we finally came to calm waters, Dad and I exchanged wordless smiles at the adventure we  had shared.

I think of that raft trip whenever I read the Gospel of Mark, which seems to blast off from verse one. 

Today's gospel passage is from roughly the middle of the first chapter.  Before we hardly know it, John the Baptist appears and causes a stir, Jesus is baptized and directly heads for the desert, John is arrested, Jesus reappears proclaiming a new Kingdom, calls the first disciples, then proceeds to Capernaum, where he heals a demoniac, Simon's mother-in-law and many others--causing a sensation.   Then he goes on to other towns for more of the same.

Excuse me while I catch my breath.

The Gospel of Mark plunges headlong like a whitewater rafting trip.

That's why I tend to recoil from it.  Whitewater rafting is one thing on a river; it's another in a narrative.  It moves too quickly for someone thoughtful and deliberative by nature.  It seems to leave out too many parts of the story.  Where's the background?  Where are the transitions that narrators use to help readers navigate the story?  Where's the opportunity to absorb what has transpired before moving on?

For example, what happens when Jesus is in the desert?  What's the inner struggle?  How is it the disciples drop everything at his call?  Have they seen and heard him before?  Did he see the look in their eyes as he spoke  to the hungers in their hearts -- and knew they were ripe to follow?

I'm always wrestling these early questions, turning them over and again in my heart.  Meanwhile, the Gospel has raced on and ended.  Oh well.

But the gospel has to be taken on its own terms, and doesn't need my help.  Perhaps it reflects an infant church which expects Christ's imminent return:  it's time to get a move on.  Or perhaps it reflects those times when the current of life gets ahead of us, runs beyond our control, and the best we can hope is to be carried by the flow and come out all right in the end.  Or both.

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.

Sharing this reflection with others by Email, on Facebook or Twitter:

Email this pageFacebookTwitter

Print Friendly

See all the Resources we offer on our Online Ministries Home Page

Daily Reflection Home

Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook