We’re reading from the Letter to the Hebrews for the next four weeks. It’s addressed to people who were growing weary with the demands of Christian life. They needed to be encouraged, strengthened and energized.
One part of its message is to focus on “today.” Sometimes our imagination runs ahead into weeks and months and years, and we become discouraged, thinking that we won’t have the strength for all the things we need to do. But the letter quotes from Psalm 95: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Reflecting on that text, the author says: “Encourage yourselves daily while it is still ‘today.’” The message is clear: Be attentive to the Lord’s voice today. Do the right thing today. Leave the rest of time in God’s hands.
The notion of being attentive and responding “in the moment” is also prevalent in this week’s readings from the Gospel of Mark. Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, then James and John, and they follow Him immediately. Jesus visits Peter’s house, immediately they say that Peter’s mother-in-law is sick, and He heals her right away. A leper comes to Jesus to ask for healing, Jesus speaks the word, and immediately the man is healed. The friends of a paralytic can’t get him to Jesus because of the great crowds. Rather than waiting for another time, they seize the day and lower him through the roof. Jesus sees Levi (Matthew) sitting at his job, and calls him. Levi, as you can guess, follows Him immediately. The readings in Mark reflect the “today” theme of the Letter to the Hebrews.
The “today of God” is also a theme of the fourth part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Paragraphs 2659-60 emphasize that we can hear and respond to God in the events of each day. Paragraph 2705 tells us that history is the page on which the “today” of God is written. Paragraph 2730 reminds us that Jesus urges us to vigilance because He is not only coming on the last day, but He comes to us every day. Paragraph 2836 reflects on the petition of the Our Father, “give us this day our daily bread,” and links the “today” of our mortal time with the “today” of God.
This tremendous confluence of themes contains a lesson for us. Each day, each moment, is the “today” of God, the time to be attentive and to respond to Him.
If we think about all the things we would like to do to get ready for His coming, we can get anxious. We become like Martha, who was “worried and anxious about many things” and became distracted from paying attention to the Lord.
The truth behind Martha’s distraction is that there are many things to be done! There are things in each of us that need to be purified. But we can trust that Jesus will shape our “today” with the call and the strength we need to get ready. Our job is to pay attention and respond: “today,” as Hebrews says, or “immediately,” as Mark says. It will still be hard work. But, if we focus on today, that work can be suffused with peace rather than anxiety.