Friday, January 20, 2012

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Readings: Jonah 3:1-5,10; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

Last Sunday we had two ‘come and see’ moments that lead to God’s call and our response in the call of Samuel and the first disciples of Jesus. This Sunday, the readings focus on how God’s call and our response to that call changes our lives and those of others. At first glance the readings may sound tame, but they will scratch us all because our commitment to Jesus Christ has consequences. The readings lead us to meet three central figures: Jesus, Jonah and Paul who have one thing in common. There is a certain urgency in the way they proclaim repentance, a change of heart that leads to witness. The first reading from the Book of Jonah contains a most engaging story on the Lord's determination to embrace all people in his plan of salvation. The Ninevites 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 Nineveh, but in the end goes reluctantly. Surprisingly, his mission encounters remarkable results. "Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed", Jonah proclaimed. The people of Nineveh 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.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus begins his public ministry and goes into Galilee proclaiming the Good News. He 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 change our lives 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. These first disciples were ordinary simple fishermen. But the tone of the invitation by Jesus simply attracted them. "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men". "And at once they left their nets and followed him". These disciples would never the same again. They made a radical decision to follow and witness Jesus Christ. While in Rome, I once bought a book by George Weigel entitled Letters to a Young Catholic. In that book, Weigel speaks about the young Polish priest, Fr Jerzy Popieluszko, beatified in June 2010. One sentence there caught my attention: Faith demands consequences. In his homilies, Blessed Popieluszko spoke about social injustice and became the “conscience of the people.” His faith conviction had consequences. On October 19, 1984, he was kidnaped and murdered at the age of 37. He embodied the truth and died for it. Within five years, the communist regime fell. Fr. Popieluszko had won the battle. Faith demands consequences. This week end we American Catholics remember the grim 39th anniversary of Roe vs Wade, the decision of the Supreme Court allowing abortion. Those who march this week end and protest throughout the country do so because like Blessed Popieluszko their faith has consequence; they embody the truth. They cannot sit back and while millions unborn babies die. The teaching of the Catholic Church is quite clear on this matter. Faith has consequences. Faith is dynamic. Faith is counter culture and therefore manifested in the integrity of men and women who exemplify who they are. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Like the prophet Jonah, we are sent to the Nineveh of today to proclaim God’s mercy and repentance; 2) We have been called by Jesus like his disciples to follow him and not to follow the world; to change the world rather than being changed by the world. 3) Our faith has consequences and therefore we cannot sit back and keep silent while millions of unborn babies die. They have as much right to live just as you and I. Think about it.

©2012 John S. Mbinda

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