January 25: Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Readings: Jonah 3:1-5,10; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
In the readings of the third Sunday of the Year, we meet three central figures: Jesus, Jonah and Paul who have one thing in common. There is a certain urgency in the way they proclaim the message of repentance, a change of heart and detachment from worldly things. The first reading from the Book of Jonah contains a most engaging story on Yahweh's determination to embrace all people in his plan of salvation. The Ninivites were a powerful, pagan nation and thus despised. One is not surprised that Jonah first resisted the Lord's call to go to preach repentance in Niniveh, but in the end goes reluctantly. Surprisingly his mission encounters remarkable results. "Forty days more and Niniveh shall be destroyed". The people of Niniveh responded by believing in God, proclaiming a fast and repenting their sins. "And God relented". The lesson is clear. There are no limits to God's love in his plan of salvation. Paul in the second reading expects the immanent return of Christ and thus appeals to Christians to focus on higher priorities rather than the concerns of this world that is soon coming to an end. That is why Paul proposes that those with wives act as not having them. In other words, Paul appeals for conversion of heart and remaining in God’s grace, always ready to meet the Lord.
In the Gospel passage, Jesus is at the beginning of his public ministry. He goes into Galilee preaching the Good News and proclaims with decisive urgency that "the time has come, and the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News". Jesus urges us to repentance as a condition of being part of that Kingdom. The call of the first disciples: Simon and his brother Andrew, and then James and John: the sons of Zebedee, is part of that proclamation of the Kingdom. If the Kingdom of God is really Good News, people would want to be part of it, even if it means giving up everything. These first disciples were ordinary simple fishermen. But the tone of the invitation by Jesus simply attracted them. "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men". "Then they abandoned their nets and followed him". The same thing happened to James and John, who left even their father in the boat to follow Jesus. What was so attractive about Jesus? What did they see in him? They discovered hope of a new life; a glimpse of the Kingdom and they wanted to become part of it, no matter the cost. They made a radical decision to follow Jesus. The message of this Sunday is threefold: 1) Just as the Ninivites heard the call from the prophet Jonah for conversion, Jesus too proclaims the same message of repentance; 2) That message is a radical decision to follow Jesus no matter what the cost might be; 3) Once we have discovered who it is that calls us, we too will abandon our nets, our worldly concerns and follow Jesus.
©2009 John M. Mbinda