Monday in the First Week of Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey

Scripture Readings:  1 Sam 1:1-8;  Mk 1:14-20

We begin Ordinary Time today. It begins with Jesus using His winnowing fan. He winnows out those who have forgotten “the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.” If we are one of those who have not forgotten, then we will be looking for answers to the question, “What is it like –on the inside- to be called out of Egypt?” We begin with today’s gospel that gives us an obvious answer: To be called is to hear a voice! And the voice we will hear for the next 34 weeks is that of the new Moses.

“Repent!” Jesus said.  In other words, have a change of heart. A change of heart is a change in what affects us. A change in what affects us is a difference in what we care about, & that difference will be important!

Jesus knows that what we care about, our Exodus experience, is determined by our community and the story it lives out. So, He said, “Believe in the gospel.”

He gives us the three main tasks of life: what to believe (the gospel); How to behave (Repent); and what to care about (the kingdom of God at hand). If the kingdom of God as it is described in the gospel is important to us, we will know and desire to change our ways of behaving in order to attain it.

But first, we have to hear the voice calling us to the kingdom. That voice must affect us in a way that nothing else in our life affects us. Conscience has many voices. The voice that called the Israelites out of Egypt and calls us to this change of heart seems to have been the voice of sacrifice.

Thomas Merton once wrote that “the problem with the Good News is that it’s not news anymore.” We’ve all heard the gospels over and over and we know that it is going to impinge on business-as-usual.

When we hear the voice, or conscience, of sacrifice, the voice of Jesus Christ, we are hearing a warning against a life lived on the basis of self-interest.

St. Benedict devotes most of his Rule to outlining duties that we are to carry out in spite of any inclinations to the contrary. Here, the voice of sacrifice harmonizes with the voice of membership to put the community before self-interest. One puts OUR principles before HER OWN personality.     In short, she “prefers nothing whatever to Christ.”

Why would anyone do this? It is because, after one hears, on the inside, the call to come out of Egypt, it must be her experience that remaining in Egypt any longer is intolerable. She must hear this with the ear of the heart [usually a broken heart].

When a person is tired of Egypt the voice of Jesus Christ is welcoming and the Good News is indeed good and it is news! It is thus that the voice of Jesus affects us and re-orders what we care about. We care about the call of Jesus because, having been in Egypt, we find the gospel makes a difference…and that difference is important!