[Reflection on The Word] Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Jonah 3:1-5, 10/ Psalm 25/ 1 Corinthians 7:29-31/ Mark 1:14-20
Theme: God’s Call Presupposes a Quick Response
Last week, we were reminded that to respond to the call of God requires that we learn to be with him. In spite of our human imperfections, God still had the audacity to call us to Himself. He calls us for a purpose. This purpose is enshrined in the readings of today namely so that we can be sent out as heralds of the Good News of repentance and God’s forgiveness.
In the first reading, we heard of the call of Jonah to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. Jonah did not have it easy in responding to God’s call because of his prejudice against the Ninevites. He knew God would forgive them and so he was jealous. For Jonah, the people of Nineveh did not deserve God’s forgiveness because as the capital of Assyrian, they exiled the Israelites and made them go through difficult times.
It is God who calls us, first of all, to be with Him and to be sent out to do what He so desires. We cannot dictate to God what we want to do. Like Jonah, we must not allow our prejudice to be a hindrance to God’s message. We must not be jealous of God’s generosity. Ours is to go preach what we have been sent to preach.
Like Jonah again, when we decide to do our own thing and we make mistakes, let us not hesitate to go back to the source of our calling and plead in the following words “… as my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2:7-9).
Just as the calling of God demands of us an urgent response, when we hear the message of repentance, we must also respond to it urgently by repenting like the people of Nineveh did. Forgiveness is a fore- giving act of God. He forgives us even before we ask of it. All the Lord requires of us is a contrite heart.
The second reading reminds us that there should be no excuse whatsoever in our response to the call of God. For Jonah, it was jealousy. For many, it is our job, our wife, our husband, our children, our family, love of money and the like. St. Paul reminds us that “…the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing… for the present form of this world is passing away” ( 1Corin 7:29-31).
Every calling is great when greatly pursued. Everyone who has been called must make Psalm 25 his prayer: “Make me know your ways O Lord, teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long (Psalm 25:5).
The gospel reading brings out clearly the message of repentance that Jonah preached in the first reading. Both readings make it explicit that the message of repentance presupposes a messenger. Someone must be sent to proclaim the Good news of repentance. “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15). Someone must be sent by all means.
It is against this background that immediately Jesus proclaimed the message of repentance, he called his disciples to be sent out and as he put it “To be fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). Every calling demands of us an offering of something so precious to us. The disciples James and John; Andrew and Simon were fishermen and so they offered their net (Song: Lord you have come to the seashore).
Surely the good qualities of successful fishermen would make for success in the difficult ministry of winning souls namely courage, the ability to work together, patience, energy, stamina, faith and tenacity. Professional fishermen could simply not afford to be quitters or complainers. In responding to the call of God, what are you offering?
The gospel of Mark is also known as the gospel of urgency. When Jesus called his first disciples, we are told that immediately he called them, they left their father and the hired men and followed him.
They followed the Lord without asking any question. Perhaps they found true peace. What was so fascinating about Jesus that his call demanded no questioning but total trust? Remember that the gospel reading for last Sunday tells us that the disciples found the Lord and went and stayed with him. This means that they had already encountered the Lord before responding to his call.
We can only respond to our call with total trust when we learn to be with the Lord. Our being with the Lord must be a daily decision for it is only a daily decision to follow the Lord that can guarantee a fruitful vocation. I believe strongly that those who have truly encountered the Lord will follow him without any apprehension.
Unlike Jonah who ran away and had to go through tough times or what I will call self- imposed hardship, we must be like the disciples who responded to Jesus’ invitation with the urgency it requires. The message of repentance is even urgent in our day. We need to give a quick response to our call to be the heralds of this message.
In sum, Jesus preached that people should repent and believe. Repentance alone is not enough to save us, even though God expects believers to turn from their sins. We must also put positive faith in Jesus Christ and believe in his promise of salvation. Repentance without faith could be remorse and remorse can destroy people who carry a burden of guilt (cf Matt. 27:3-5; 2 Corin 7:8-10). God’s call demands a quick response. May he who calls and qualifies, renew our calling today.
Source: Rev. Fr. Aaron Agorsor
Facebook: I Thirst