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Month of January

'Thank the Lord for every grace received” and “look with confidence and hope to the future.
May it be…a happy year full of divine graces.'
Pope Francis

Month of January

Month of January

January sees the start of a new year. After this past year we look forward with hope to a better year. The Gospel of Mark which provides the majority of Gospels for this coming year has a particularly appropriate message for us as we leave 2020 behind. When we read the Gospel as written by Mark, we read a Gospel which seems to be written for people who are living less under the mystery of the resurrection and more under the mystery of the cross. So the weaknesses and obstacles that human nature place in the way of discipleship are more apparent but so is the forgiveness of Christ in the face of the failures of his disciples. They are caught up in the human struggle for power and influence thinking that through these things we can gain the peace promised by God. We can read Mark’s Gospel learning, as their stubbornness unfolds and Christ’s teaching develops, that power and influence is not the way that God has planned for his Kingdom to be revealed and it certainly does not consist in wielding the power of human empires. But this is a lesson the disciples fail to learn because it is the lesson of the cross and if the disciples are right on one thing, it is that we all want to avoid the cross if possible. It is something we do not really understand and definitely something we do not want, but Christ keeps calling his disciples back to it. Mark’s Gospel therefore is particularly relevant for those whose lives are so overshadowed by suffering and betrayal and confusion, that they cannot see the light of the resurrection. We cannot all live in the light of Easter joy at all times in our life, especially when we have been overwhelmed by sorrow and pain, or because our sense of our own sin and failures have led us to dislike ourselves and distrust ourselves. But even here the message of Christ has found a way to reach us because we can see in the failures of the disciples a reflection of our own failures. In the chastising that Christ metes out to the disciples we know that we too are deserving of his frustration. But we also encounter in Mark’s Gospel the acceptance of Jesus for this weakness in us. He doesn’t abandon his disciples because of their slowness, he does not condemn them or chase them away. What we often find is that for one reason or another we walk away from Christ. It may be that we feel hypocrites, unable to live with ourselves because we see the distance between what we profess and what we live. That is the case for all of us, in one way or another, but what Mark’s portrayal of the disciples teaches us is that our journey through life as disciples of Christ is exactly that: a journey. And Christ is the teacher and like any good teacher he is patient and continually draws us on to grow in fidelity to him. We too must learn to be patient with ourselves and our world; not to despair at our failings or the world’s darkness but to trust in God whose goodness is more than we can know. We must not allow ourselves to be separated from Christ by remorse, guilt, shame or the darkness in the world. Though imperfect and stubborn and weak we must stay close to him and continue to learn.