Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
We encounter Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry. Mark clearly informs us that when John the Baptist was arrested Jesus begins his ministry of the proclamation of the Kingdom. He gives the people a call and a challenge. His message is simple and clear: “The time is opportune and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news.” In fact, the whole of the Gospel message is contained in those two sentences. It contains both the purpose of Jesus’ coming and how we are to respond. This passage firmly informs us that the Kingdom of God is here and now. It is immediate and there is a sense of urgency in the call of the kingdom. All are called to respond. The opportunity cannot be lost. In fact this summarises the entire ministry of Jesus and sets a call of urgency to discover and to find him. In today’s hectic world we may often find our resolve to follow the Lord and his Gospel being diverted. We miss opportunities to forge, heal and comfort people around us. There are several opportunities placed before us and they are easily lost because of our preoccupation with other things.
Today we are informed that the expected time has come. The kingdom of God is close at hand, it is in the vicinity; the kingship and the reign of God is close to us. Jesus is the sign and symbol of the kingdom and in reality he is the kingdom who brings God’s rule into our hearts. How can any person enter that kingdom? Jesus shows us the way. He says: “Repent and believe in the Good News.” In the First Reading we see Jonah, the reluctant prophet, preaching repentance to the great city of Nineveh. The people respond immediately, they proclaim a fast and they pray to receive repentance for their sins. Contrary to his expectations, the pagan peoples of the city “believed in God” and “renounced their evil behaviour”. Consequently, God changed His mind about the calamity that He was about to send to Nineveh. Through Jonah‘s proclamation of the message the people were once more united in the righteous ways of the Lord God. They respond positively to the invitation and move closer to him. Of course this upsets Jonah but that is another episode.
Jesus invites all to repent and to believe. ‘Repent’ here is more than just being sorry for the past; it involves a radical conversion (metanoia), a change of direction and priorities in a person’s life. It is a turning from something but much more a turning towards something more important. This consists in believing in Jesus who is the Good News. To believe in Jesus means is not merely to accept what Jesus teaches us but to involve in a total commitment to a cause. It is to invest oneself in the work of Jesus and build the kingdom along with him. The Kingdom extends far wider than the Church, which is called to be the sign pointing to the Kingdom’s presence in our world which is Jesus.
The second part of today’s Gospel shows the early responses to this call. Four fishermen are called: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” At once, we are told, Peter and Andrew left their nets and boat and with that all their security and followed Jesus. The other two disciples too did the same. At once, leaving their father Zebedee and his hired men, James and John also went after him. This is how Jesus calls and it is the vocation they received. It is possible that they knew Jesus earlier. Yet as he goes as an itinerant preacher with nothing of his own possessions or security it was a great step that they took to be with him. It was a total act of surrender to the master and accepted his call as a challenge. They will from now on be fishers of people and will reach out to them. Actually, they had no idea where they were going. They had no idea of what the future held for them. This was the extent of their great trust in this man who came out of the blue into their lives and challenged them to leave behind their security and throw in their lot with him. They would, in fact, go through many unexpected experiences, some of them joyful, some of them full of pain.
They would indeed become “fishers of people continuing a great movement begun by their Master Jesus to bring people to a new way of living in truth, love, freedom and justice. But they never regretted that day they walked away from their security. They found experiences that transcended all their dreams. When every one started leaving Jesus and moving away, Jesus asks the disciples will you also go away? Their answer must been surprising and also encouraging him. Peter on behalf of the rest of the group says, to whom we shall go for you have the words of eternal life. In other words they vow to remain faithful to him and have understood him. This invitation comes to us even today and we need the courage of the apostles to say yes to him.
Paul in today’s Second Reading tells the Corinthians to live in total freedom and detachment. Nothing we have, whether things or personal attachments, are permanent and can disappear at a moment’s notice. Whether life is very good or very bad: nothing lasts except the fundamental values of truth and love, of freedom and justice. It is what we are, not what we have that counts. When Paul says that the present form of this world is passing away we find difficult to understand him in the present day context. He speaks of those who are married, because of the responsibilities that come with the married life; both spouses being placed in the affairs of the world which is passing away, those responsibilities become an obstacle to their precious spiritual growth and communion with the Lord. Their primary concentration should be the Lord and then look towards the earthly affairs. They too have received the calling from the Lord and are called upon to live as if they fully belong to the Lord
Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Fishers of men are ambassadors of Christ. They represent Christ. Christians, through their Baptism, they are called to be lights in the world. They are those who are called to go forward and to evangelize to the world. They were called to evangelize, first to their family members, then their friends, their co-workers, the strangers, all of those with who they come in contact during their lives, all for the glory of God. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, preparing ourselves to participate in the great Feast of the Holy Eucharist in the Presence of the Lord Jesus, let each and everyone of us ask the Lord Jesus to bless each one of us with an abundance of active holy members to do His holy work.
Third Sunday of the Year: January 25, 2009
Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20