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THIS IS NO ORDINARY TIME
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time B
The Catholic church is now in a period called “Ordinary Time.” It is an interval on the liturgical calendar when no particular event of the mystery of Christ is celebrated. However, on our daily calendars this is no ordinary time.
The events of the past fortnight are filled with both fear and hope. There was the dastardly breach of our nation’s Capitol, the historic second impeachment of President Donald Trump, and the upcoming inauguration of Joe Biden, whose 1.9 trillion dollar rescue plan aims to curb our economic and public health emergencies.
While we await nationwide vaccinations against SARS-CoV-19 we worry about continual threats against democracy and national security triggered by crazed mobs and specious conspiracies. The FBI considers, for example, the QAnon conspiracy a domestic terrorist threat. Although a majority of Americans believe QAnon is bad for this country many Christians strongly believe its theories.
What is hard to understand is why so many Christian people continue to accept these deceptions and a defeated president who intentionally abused women, separated children from their parents, shamed persons with disabilities, disregarded the Constitution, and mocked veterans for serving in the military.
A president who has consistently eschewed core Christian teachings, not to mention legal statutes, can hardly be called “pro-life.” More intolerable are the large numbers of Christians and their leaders who believe the outgoing president was appointed by God to be the savior of this nation if not the entire world! They are such loyal followers they have become complicit in embracing and promoting the shallow but dangerous agenda of Mr. Trump.
James Martin SJ wrote last week: “The invasion of the U.S. Capitol was seen by many rioters not simply as a political act but a religious one, in great part thanks to the moral framework fostered by too many Christian leaders. Christians in the mob probably did not consider themselves criminals as much as prophets.”
What are good, well intentioned people supposed to do? In the first biblical text for today (Samuel 3:3b-10, 19) the aging high priest Eli said to the teenager Samuel, son of Hannah, if you hear God calling you, you had better reply ASAP. Unlike Eli’s sons, Samuel did not yet know about God. Further, he did not realize God was calling him to be an important prophet.
The gospel (John 1:35-42) offers another example of readily answering the call. We read about Jesus recruiting people to follow him.  In this passage Peter is called by Jesus but, perhaps like Samuel, he did not understand what he was being asked to do nor did he grasp the significance of his calling. Some scholars think Peter never understood.
We, too, have been hearing this same biblical mandate over and over. We cannot ignore the call. Just as the world did not become an egalitarian sphere as soon as Jesus was born or when he died, neither should we think that our thirst for social justice will be quenched overnight. There is work to do.
In his sermon “No Surprise,” Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, preached about the traumatic and dispiriting event in Washington as an example of what happens when unchecked leaders rule. He urged, “There is no one moment when dissent dies.” Cosgrove continued to say that redemption does not happen all at once but takes one step at a time. “The dawn beckons,” he said.
What explains the dangerous behavior of the Trump cultic following? What locks ordinary people into a frenzied loyalty to crazed incendiaries like Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson, or Keith Raniere? Chris Jackson, a pollster with Ipsos commented: “Increasingly, people are willing to say and believe stuff that fits in with their view of how the world should be, even if it doesn't have any basis in reality or fact.”
We cannot forget that Jesus, like his cousin John the Baptizer, started a cult with a goal in mind. And, yes, Jesus, an itinerant Jew, did excite his disciples and others with his stirring speeches and radical actions. Christians today are baptized into that same cult and are called to rally, protest, attack, march against what we believe are grave injustices.
The difference between Jesus’s call to action and the maneuvers of egregious cults deluded by a demagogue is that Christians, along with people of other faith traditions, are committed to a united  effort to seek justice by peaceful means and without acts of violence. We do not stir up barbarity.  We move about in society using immeasurable kindness and truthful conversation as agents of reconciliation and peacemaking.
This coming week we begin with the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. on a National Day of Service.  Undeterred, and true to his calling, King challenged unbridled bigotry, racist structures and, specifically, a White supremacist, homophobic culture. King’s prophetic voice still resounds. In his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech he said: “ …Faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom.”
In mid-week a new president and vice-president will take office. They promise to restore our nation’s credibility worldwide, to make health care a human right, to create jobs so everyone can live with dignity, and to lift up our pride in being an American citizen. It is no small task. We are all beckoned to do something, anything, to work harder for reconciliation and justice. Like the invitation to Samuel and the disciples of Christ we need to answer the call ASAP.
This is no ordinary time.
1. Next week’s gospel Mk 1:14-20 reports the continuation of the same recruiting process.
2. This is the beginning of a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
3. Those who peacefully protest various issues of public interest have a constitutional right to do so. The criticism is aimed at those who endanger the lives of others to make their point.
4. In 1994 Congress passed the MLK holiday and Service Act designating the day as a National Day of Service.