Today, with celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, we end the Christmas Season and begin a rather short and breath-taking narrative of Christ's ministry and teaching, leading up to Lent.
On the 4th Sunday, we encounter Jesus teaching "with authority" in the temple, on the 5th, we witness him healing Simon's mother-in-law, and then on the 6th, we see him healing a leper. Then suddenly, it will be Lent. when the readings of those five Sundays bring us almost abruptly to the Passion.
It will not be until Summer Ordinary Time, after Pentecost, that we will have time to explore the life and ministry of Jesus at a more leisurely pace, although in the year of Mark, it will still consist of rather brief accounts.
So, what are we to gain from the next five Sundays? As usual, the priest's prayers in the Roman Missal provide a key. Here are some key phrases we will hear over the next five Sundays:
2nd Sunday: "...make those you have nourished by this one heavenly Bread one in mind and heart."
3rd Sunday: "...direct our actions according to your good pleasure, that in the name of your beloved Son we may abound in good works."
4th Sunday: "...that we may honor you with all our mind, and love everyone in truth of heart."
5th Sunday: "...grant us, we pray, so to live that, made one in Christ, we may joyfully bear fruit for the salvation of the world."
6th Sunday: "grant that we may be so fashioned by your grace as to become a dwelling pleasing to you."
What's the takeaway from these five weeks? This is about developing unity, good works, agape love, participation in God's mission to save the world and personal relationship with God. In short, we are working on our discipleship - getting a short refresher course about what it means to be a community of disciples together on the journey before we enter the time of introspection and preparation for renewal that is Lent.