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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Thursday 1st in Ordinary Time

1st Reading (1Sam 4:1-11): The Philistines gathered for an attack on Israel. Israel went out to engage them in battle and camped at Ebenezer, while the Philistines camped at Aphek. The Philistines then drew up in battle formation against Israel. After a fierce struggle Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who slew about four thousand men on the battlefield. When the troops retired to the camp, the elders of Israel said, «Why has the Lord permitted us to be defeated today by the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the Lord from Shiloh that it may go into battle among us and save us from the grasp of our enemies».

So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God. When the ark of the Lord arrived in the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth resounded.

The Philistines, hearing the noise of shouting, asked, «What can this loud shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?». On learning that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, the Philistines were frightened. They said, «Gods have come to their camp». They said also, «Woe to us! This has never happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods that struck the Egyptians with various plagues and with pestilence. Take courage and be manly, Philistines; otherwise you will become slaves to the Hebrews, as they were your slaves. So fight manfully!».

The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated; every man fled to his own tent. It was a disastrous defeat, in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.
Responsorial Psalm: 43
R/. Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.
Yet now you have cast us off and put us in disgrace, and you go not forth with our armies. You have let us be driven back by our foes; those who hated us plundered us at will.

You made us the reproach of our neighbors, the mockery and the scorn of those around us. You made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples.

Why do you hide your face, forgetting our woe and our oppression? For our souls are bowed down to the dust, our bodies are pressed to the earth.
Versicle before the Gospel (Mt 4:23): Alleluia. Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom and cured every disease among the people. Alleluia.
Gospel text (Mk 1,40-45): A leper came to Jesus and begged Him, «If you so will, you can make me clean». Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, «I will; be clean». The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, he sternly warned him, «Don't tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest and for the cleansing bring the offering ordered by Moses; in this way you will make your declaration».

However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though he stayed in the rural areas, people came to him from everywhere.

«‘If you so will, you can make me clean’ (...). ‘I will; be clean’»

Fr. Xavier PAGÉS i Castañer (Barcelona, Spain)

Today, in the first reading we read: «As the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear his voice ‘do not harden your hearts’» (Heb 3:7-8). And we constantly repeat it in the response to Psalm 94. In this brief quote, two points are raised: a longing and a warning. Both should never be forgotten.

During our daily prayer we long for and hope to hear our Lord's voice. But, perhaps more often than not, we fill it with our own words without allowing us time to listen to what the Good God may wish to tell us. Let us, therefore, take care of our inner silence which —by avoiding distractions and centering our attention— opens up a space to receive the affections and inspirations Our Lord, most certainly, wants to impregnate our hearts with.

A risk we must never forget is the risk that dwelling on the old sin may harden our spiritual heart. Life's hazards, at times, may make us —even without our realizing it— more leery, insensible, disheartened, forlorn…! We must beg our Lord to make us more conscientious of this inner downgrading. Our prayer offers us the opportunity to look serenely at our own life and to all circumstances surrounding it. We must meditate over the different events in the Light of the Gospel, to discover where we are in need of an authentic change.

If only we could hope for our change with the same degree of faith and confidence as the leper showed when he asked Jesus!: «He came to Jesus and begged Him, ‘If you so will, you can make me clean’» (Mk 1:40). He is the only one to make possible what for us is simply impossible. Let God act through His Grace upon us so our hearts can be purified and, meek to His influence, may every day become more in the image and semblance of Jesus' heart. He is telling us, in confidence: «I will; be clean» (Mk 1:41).

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