January 21, 2018
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm

 

Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Cor 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

 

            Ok, first, I’m speaking to the married men. Out of all the verses of scripture you just heard (1st reading, Psalm, 2nd reading & the Gospel) there’s probably one verse in particular that you remember most: from the 2nd reading, “From now on, let those having wives act as not having them.”  No, no, no, it doesn’t mean what you think it does!…We must read scripture within context. So what is the context? What is the theme & the message for us this 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time?

          In the 2nd reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians he starts out with, “The time is running out.” And he ends with, “For the world in its present form is passing away.” When we hear these 2 verses, then the statement, “let those having wives act as not having them” makes sense. Paul is NOT saying forget your responsibilities, he is NOT saying don’t worry about your relationships & your day-to-day affairs. No, we all know we need to take care of our daily business, our marriages, our family needs, work responsibilities, school and so on. The point St. Paul is making is the end will come sooner than you think so don’t be overly concerned with things of this world, things that will pass away. Be more concerned with things of heaven, eternal things. Put priority over the spiritual rather than the natural (material).

          In the Gospel Jesus proclaims the same message. Today we heard from the first chapter from the Gospel of Mark. Mark is considered to be the oldest of the 4 Gospels so the words we hear from Jesus today are His first recorded words in scripture. And He doesn’t waste anytime but gets right to it, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Why does Paul and Jesus seem so urgent about this? Because there is so much at stake. Our eternal life is in the balance…The world tells us, “Don’t worry, live any way that you want, seize the moment, whatever makes you happy go with it. It’s alright.” But Jesus and the Church tell us the time is now! Before it’s too late repent and believe.  That is the urgent message for us today to repent which means to change, to turn around, to live in a new way, to live in God’s way not what the world tells us. And believe means (from the original language) to trust and to totally rely upon. The time is now to change and to trust in the Lord.

          The disciples in today’s Gospel showed that they repented and trusted by dropping everything (which symbolizes dropping worldly ways and thinking) and they followed Christ. They took the message to heart and they changed their way of living and thinking…In the first reading the people of Nineveh heard the message from Jonah and the scripture said they “believed God & they turned from their evil ways”. *We have heard the message over and over, at mass, from our parents, from other people, in Religious Education, at retreats. Do we believe it and take action? Do we take it to heart? Do we change our way of living and thinking? Not just for a short time but as a way of living day-in & day-out?

          In the Gospel the scripture said they “dropped everything and followed Jesus.” How do we know that we are following Jesus? How do we know for sure that we have repented and believe? How do we know that we have heard and answered His call? We know and can be sure if we live different than the rest of the world. If we think and act more & more like Christ. We are more compassionate and kind, if we are more forgiving, & non-judgmental. If we are more giving in the sharing of our time, our talents and our treasure. If we are detached from material things where they are not so important anymore. If we are more Christ-centered rather than self-centered. And if we have a hunger to spend more time with Jesus at Mass, in His Word and in prayer, and in fellowship with other believers. These are some of the ways we know that we have answered the call of Jesus to follow Him.  

          And as disciples who have answered the call to repent and believe, to follow Jesus, disciples who have the hunger to spend time with Him and to be like Him, then what? Then, like Simon Peter and Andrew, like James and John in the Gospel; and like Jonah in the first reading we are called to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God by word and by deed…The story that we heard about Jonah is not the whole story. Before our reading picks up God asked Jonah a first time to preach the message of repentance to the people of Nineveh, the Capital city of Assyria. But Jonah refused. You see Nineveh and Assyria were the bitter enemy of Israel. They were known for their brutality and Israel hated them. Jonah didn’t think they deserved a chance to be forgiven and saved so he tried to flee on a ship. But we all know what happened. Jonah’s shipped was being torn apart by a violent storm and he was swallowed by huge fish (whale). He spent 3 days and nights inside the fish where he repented of his actions. The whale spit him out and then God gave him a second chance. This time Jonah did go to the people of Nineveh and he did announce the message of repentance…Are we like Jonah who has heard the call to spread the Good News but have not done it? Or are we like Jonah who thinks some people don’t deserve to be saved? Well like Jonah the Lord gives us another chance. But don’t wait until you are swallowed by a whale! The inside of the whale must have been pretty nasty. We don’t want to flee from God’s call and be put in a stinky, smelly situation. The time is now to spread the message of God’s love and mercy to all people no matter who they are.

          So the message for us today is the time is now to repent and to believe. And to let everyone else know the time is now. Don’t be overly concerned with things of this world, things that will pass away. Don’t cling to things that seem so important right now but in the overall scheme of things they are really not. The Super Bowl is coming up in a couple weeks. Who remembers who won it last year or the year before? The college football championship was won a couple weeks ago in an epic game by Alabama over Georgia in overtime. But who is going to remember that 10 years from now? Not many. The point is all these things that seem so important right now (cell phones, our clothes, our cars, our looks, our youth) they are all fading away and will be forgotten. Be concerned with living the Gospel and spreading the Good News of the Kingdom which will not fade away. So I close with the words of St. Paul, “The time is running out. For the world in its present form is passing away.” And the first recorded words of Jesus, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

My friends, God is calling us right now. God is great, don’t hesitate! 

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