Happy New year! Today is the first day of the new Church year. And yet, in our civil calendar, we are in the 11th month of the calendar year, five months into the fiscal year and right in the middle of the academic year. It is truly brilliant that our Church year is not confined to the business–as-usual world we live in. Our calendar creates a dissonance in our lives that reminds us that we live our lives out of a totally different framework. The birth of the Messiah centers our year. He is at the heart of everyday of our lives. The new Church Year puts our focus on our need for God.
The First reading today comes from Isaiah and takes place after the People of God return from the Babylonian captivity. The people are lamenting because their return home was not what they hoped it would be. They were liberated from one empire and have found themselves under the rule of the Persians. They need the power of God in their lives like never before. Their prayer to God can also be our own, “Tear open the sky and come to help us! The things we do are not the works we intended. We are clay that is trying to shape itself into something of service. We need your help because only You can shape us into what you want us to become!”
As St. Mark writes in his Gospel, “Be watchful and alert because you do not know when the time will come.” This is not intended to frighten us or shame us into Christian action. It is reality. Time is filled with the presence of God. But Time, unlike God, will always run out. The sun always sets whether or not we have completed our tasks. Every bill has a date when it must be paid. The food in our homes has an expiration date. There is a date when we expect to be paid our salary. Time runs out.
Our Lord’s message is not simply to do a job, but to do it mindfully. That is, to be awake and alert to the fact that the power to do anything comes from God Himself. While time runs out, it is a gift to us, as well. We are the work of God’s hands. At this point we are still unfinished. The invitation of the scripture lesson today is for us to be more responsive to the Potter’s work, because it is the Father’s ongoing shaping of our lives for a blessed new year and the rest of our lives.