3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
January 21, 2018
Back at the start of December we began a new liturgical year. Our readings as found in the Lectionary for Sunday are based on a three-year cycle. Each of the three years features one of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The Gospel of John is used during Lent, Easter, and Christmas in each of the three years.
This year we are in Year B. That means we read predominantly from Mark’s Gospel. However, during Advent and Christmas we did not hear much from Mark as the familiar Christmas stories are found mainly in Matthew and Luke.
So, having entered into Ordinary Time, we now begin a semi-continuous reading of Mark’s Gospel until Lent. Our gospel today picks up at the point where Jesus is beginning his public ministry.
While it is the beginning of his public ministry, his message is not entirely new. As he begins proclaiming the gospel he says, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” This continues what John the Baptist had been saying as he called for a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John came to “prepare the way of the Lord” and Jesus picks up from where John left off.
Ultimately, Jesus makes possible the forgiveness of our sins by his death on the Cross (proof that suffering has value). However, repentance was not something new with the coming of Jesus.
We need to look no further than our first reading today. The people of Nineveh had embraced a life of sin. God sends Jonah to proclaim the destruction of Nineveh. How did the people respond to Jonah’s words? They repented, proclaiming a fast and putting on sackcloth. Because of their repentance, God stopped the destruction he had threatened.
They had turned away from God’s ways. The same still happens today. Instead of focusing on God’s ways, we do what we want. We learn a little about our faith as children and then stop but being a disciple is a lifelong experience. What we learn about our faith as little children is just the tip of the iceberg. We need to constantly ask God to teach us his ways, to show us the path, and to guide us in his Truth.
God summons all of us to be his disciples. He calls us forth to follow him. The second part of our gospel today tells us the story of Jesus calling Simon, Andrew, James, and John to be his disciples.
They responded immediately and whole heartedly. Simon and Andrew abandoned their nets. James and John left their father. We might think, “If only our response could be as strong.”
However, their response was not perfect and absolute. Simon Peter will rebuke Jesus the first time Jesus tells them of his coming passion. James and John will seek places of honor. They will all scatter when Jesus is arrested.
Likewise, if all we ever read from the story of Jonah is today’s passage we simply hear that God told Jonah to announce the message that God will give him and Jonah’s response seems to be perfect as he does it.
However, if you look at the verses of today’s first reading, you will see it comes from the third chapter of Jonah. Going back to the first chapter, God had told Jonah to go to Nineveh but Jonah refused and fled. He didn’t want to go. Jonah ended up in the belly of a great fish for three days. He repented and did what God says. However, if you read the rest of the Book of Jonah, you will see that Jonah is not happy. He wanted God to destroy Nineveh. Jonah had done as God directed but he still needed to work on what was in his own heart.
It takes time to fully turn our hearts to God and “time is running out.” Sooner or later we will die and then we will be judged. How will we fair?
I ask this in the context of each of us thinking about it as individuals. Are we individually following God’s ways?
However, we also need to think about it as a society. Our second reading ends today with Paul’s words, “For the world in its present form is passing away.” Paul writes these words in the context of the Second Coming of Jesus that will bring the end of this world. This is still true today as we await the Second Coming. However, I also look at Paul’s words “passing away” in the context of where our values as a society are going. Are we following God’s way or are we passing away into sin?
There are people who will talk about the wonderful freedoms of today. They say we are free to choose whatever we want. We can choose whatever we want but are we truly free to choose what we want?
I am afraid many are not as free as they think. It is true that God gives us the freedom to choose our actions. The problem comes when those who talk about the great freedoms of society today insist that we not talk about what our faith teaches.
If people do not hear about God’s ways, both in the context of commandments and the reason behind the commandments, they are not truly free. One is only truly free when they hear both sides. God allows evil to have its say. We need to make sure God’s ways are heard.
When we face decisions, we need to ask what God has to say about what choices we have. To make an informed choose we need to ask why God commands as he does so that we understand what his way truly is. For instance, we all know the commandment thou shall not kill. Do we also hear Jesus’ words that the commandment centers on not being angry?
We are not perfect. God knows that but we have to try and do our best. If we fall short (and we do), then we know we can repent and believe in the gospel that tells us that Jesus dies for the forgiveness of sins.
May we always see to know and live in God’s way.