3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 (4a)
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
January 24, 2021
Now, as we proceed through Ordinary Time, we are reading from the Gospel of Mark in this Year B of our Sunday lectionary cycle. Today’s reading begins with verse 14 of the first chapter.
The first eight verses of chapter tell of the ministry of John the Baptist. Verses 9 through 11 tell of the Baptism of Jesus while verses 12 & 13 tell of the Temptation of Jesus by Satan. (We heard about John the Baptist in the Advent readings. We heard the verses on Jesus’ Baptism on the Feast of his Baptism. We will hear the story of the Temptation of Jesus in Lent.)
Now, in what we hear today Jesus begins his public ministry.
He does not begin something radically new. Instead, He picks up where John the Baptist left off, “proclaiming the gospel of God,” calling all to “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
It’s important to note that in what Jesus says here, the word “gospel” is not capitalized. When we refer to one of the four gospels by name, we capitalize the word “Gospel” as part of a proper name.
Of course, when Jesus began his public ministry the four gospels have not been written yet. He uses the word “gospel” for its meaning. It means “good news.” Jesus comes to bring us the good news of God’s love for us. He comes to bring the good news of God’s Truth.
Jesus also says, “This is the time of fulfillment.” Many prophecies from the Old Testament are fulfilled in what Jesus does. The birth of Jesus at Christmas fulfills prophecies. His Passion that we will hear during Holy Week fulfills prophecies. In today’s reading, we see another prophecy fulfilled. He said to Simon and Andrew, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This fulfills what was foretold in Jeremiah 16:14-16.
As Jesus began his public ministry, He immediately began calling disciples. Simon and Andrew “abandoned their nets and followed him.” James and John did likewise.
The immediacy of their responses might seem amazing. They barely know Jesus yet they see something in him that they are willing to abandon their nets to follow him.
How long does it take us to turn our lives totally over to Jesus? There can be big moments of conversion for us. It can also be a long process of us giving up earthly things. It isn’t easy to let go of things we have.
So, the response of Simon, Andrew, James, and John might seem beyond our reach. Likewise, if we take the first reading as the whole story, the response of Jonah might seem amazing. God told Jonah to “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” Jonah “made ready” and did it. His response seems immediate.
Yet, this is not the whole story. Do you remember as a child hearing the story of Jonah and the whale? Do you know that this story is in the Bible?
Today we hear from chapter three of “The Book of Jonah.” I encourage you to read the whole book. It is only four pages long. In the first two chapters we see a very different response of Jonah the first time God tells him to go to Nineveh with the message.
Jonah doesn’t want to go to Nineveh to deliver the message (chapter 4 tells us why). So, he runs away. He ends up in a boat in a terrible storm. When the ship’s crew learns that he has rejected God’s instruction, they throw him overboard. Jonah ends up in the belly of the “great fish.” After spending three days there, he repents.
After that, when God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah goes. When the people of Nineveh hear of God’s imminent punishment, they repent, proclaim a fast, and put on sackcloth. Seeing their repentance, God spares them.
The Ninevites heard God’s message and believed it. Do you believe God’s Word?
Do you want to follow God’s Word? From our psalm, do you want God to teach you his ways, to make them know to you?
In our opening prayer, we prayed, “direct our actions according to your good pleasure, that…we may abound in good works.”
Where do we find God’s Word in written form? The answer, of course, is the Bible.
The Bible is full of interesting stories, but they are not just stories.
The Bible is full of commandments, but they are not just rules to follow.
The Bible (particularly in the Book of Psalms) contains prayers of the writers, but they are not just the prayers of one person. They often reflect the prayers of many people. They often reflect our own feelings, prayers, and needs.
The Bible is God’s Word to us. The stories tell us of God’s love for his people. The commands guide us in good living.
Recognizing the importance of the Bible, last year Pope Francis declared the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time every year to be the “Sunday of the Word of God.”
We need to read the Bible. We need to read both the New and the Old Testament. The “new” does not cast off the “old.” The new brings to fulfillment what is in the old. That’s why the Second Vatican Council restored the practice of including a reading from the Old Testament at Mass. The first reading is picked to help us understand the gospel.
You hear God’s Word at Mass. I hope you read it on your own at home. Do you live what you have heard? Do you say “yes” to Jesus?