January 8, 2024
by Nancy Shirley
Creighton - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the First Week of Ordinary Time

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

Celebrating Christmas

For those celebrating the Baptism of the Lord today.

The beginning of the calendar year is always a great time for reflection – so many of us stop and think about the year past and start making New Year’s resolutions.  For the church calendar, we are also in the beginning of the year; we have completed Advent and received the greatest gift of all time, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amid the commercialization of Christmas, we may have struggled to keep the focus of the celebration centered on Christ.  It is far too easy to forget that Jesus is the Reason for the Season.  So . . . here we are, we just completed the Twelve Days of Christmas and in the beginning of Ordinary Time.  The readings for today focus us on the deep faith demonstrated by Hannah and the first recruitment of the disciples.

The first reading from the book of Samuel conveys part of the story of Hannah.  In this excerpt, we see that Elkanah has two wives.  Clearly, he cares deeply for his wife, Hannah, even though she is barren. She is broken-hearted about her lack of children and the unkind behavior and gloating of Peninnah further her sense of worthlessness.  However, Hannah is an exemplar of faith.  She continues to pray faithfully (and endlessly) for a son – her faith is unwavering and she promises that if she is granted a son, she will give him to God’s service.  Later in the book of Samuel, we will see that the miracle of a son does happen and that “her womb is no longer closed.”  Amazingly, Hannah keeps that promise and brings the newly weaned Samuel to the temple to serve God.  An unbelievable sacrifice for someone who waited so long for this child.  Her strength and faith are rewarded with three additional children.  Yet when she relinquished Samuel, she had no idea that she would have more children.  Hannah is the epitome of faith in the Old Testament just as Mary exhibits extraordinary faith in the New Testament to heed the calling and have a son who will also be offered to God.

When I was conducting retreats for homeless women in recovery through the Ignatian Spirituality Program (ISP), I would refer to the many faithful women in the Bible as examples for our own lives.  Hannah always stood out as an amazing example of not only mother’s love but also of a servant’s heart sacrificing everything she held most dear to God.  The women in the Bible offer us a clear path in the way of faith.  I loved bringing them to the attention of the women I was serving who were carrying their own crosses and burdens to let them know that they were never alone.  As one source presenting women in the Bible asserted, women stand by each other always – they stood by each other at the foot of the cross and they stand by each other at the crossroads of life, those struggles we face on a daily basis.  I think it was Joyce Rupp (but I may not have the correct author) who said we (as women) are bound together not as prisoners but rather as climbers who support each other and prevent each other from falling.  Our ropes do not confine us, instead they protect and lift us allowing us to scale the “mountains of life;” to reach the peaks and survive the valleys and pitfalls. Hannah will always come to mind as one whose faith carried her through losses and triumphs.

We have been given a Savior, we are asked to believe, and we are asked to love one another.  Clearly this needs to be at the top of our New Year’s resolutions (resolutions for how we live our lives) and remember “Those who keep His commandments remain in Him, and He in them, and the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit that He gave us.”  Blessings to everyone as we begin this wonderful year – hopefully, a year where we open our hearts to all that is asked of us and be able to embrace the gifts that are so generously bestowed upon us.

Lauren Daigle is a woman whose songs demonstrate the faith exhibited by so many women in the Bible.  It was hard to chose just one of her songs but my granddaughter chose this one!!

Thank God I Do

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