Sunday, 1/24/2021, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Faith Begets Repenting Begets Forgiveness
First Reading Commentary: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
If you read the whole story of Jonah being told by the LORD to go to Nineveh, you will find that the first time that the LORD told Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah disobeyed. But Jonah did not make that mistake the second time. Nineveh was an enormous city and it took three days to walk through it. Jonah announced God’s word saying, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” After the first day, the people proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king, even he put on sackcloth and sat in ashes. In those days, the act of putting on sackcloth and sitting in ashes was an outward sign of repenting for one’s sins.
It takes humility to go to Confession. Although they may not admit it, that is one reason why some people don’t go. It takes humility to repent and, in those days, repentance was demonstrated in a very public way and took extreme humility. Take a moment to think about how humble this king must have been—at least when it came to showing his faith in God. If he could do that, we can too.
If you read the whole passage, Jonah 3:1-10, you will find that the king also made a proclamation commanding his entire kingdom to repent. He said, “Neither man nor beast…shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way…Who knows, God may relent and forgive…” The king knew that God was both loving and forgiving. He knew that God had forgiven the people before and he was hopeful that God would forgive the people again. He was right. Not by his own wisdom but because he was touched by the Spirit with wisdom, hope and faith.
When God saw the people turn from their evil way, He repented and did not destroy Nineveh. We are reminded by Jonah and the people of Nineveh that God knows us better than we know ourselves. He created us and He knows that we have weaknesses and that because of those weaknesses; we fall into sin. Knowing this and because He loves us, the only thing that God wants from us when we sin is to repent. When we repent with humility and sincerity, He will take us away from the devil’s grip and spare us from destruction.
This is also another one of so many times that we see God using us in spite of our brokenness. He knows whether our answer to Him will be, yes or no. God knows that sometimes, we need a push like Jonah. If we are not refusing God, it does not matter how afraid we are or how unworthy we may think that we are. We cannot run and we cannot hide. God will give us that push and all we can do is put our faith in Him and do as He wishes us to do and everything will be just fine.
What Really Matters
Second Reading Commentary: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Paul’s message today is short, sweet and to the point. In fact, Paul gives us this message over and over again throughout his writings. Paul tells us that everything of this world is only temporary. Everything in and of this world will end. This life is only temporary. This life is nothing more than a journey into the next.
Therefore, everything in and of this world is of little importance as compared to what happens to our spirit after this life. Paul is telling us that we should not live for this life but rather, we should live for the next. The next life is eternal and we should prepare ourselves for the next life by the way that we live in this life. We should be preparing ourselves for eternal life in heaven. That is what maters!
Called to Be a Fisher of Men
Gospel Commentary: Mark 1:14-20
Last week, we heard John’s account of the first disciples being called. This week we here; Mark’s account. Mark tells us that after John the Baptist had been arrested, Jesus went to Galilee proclaiming to the people that; it was the time of fulfillment; that the kingdom of God was at hand, that they should repent and believe in the Gospel.
John the Baptist heralded the coming of the Messiah and now Jesus would herald the fact that He was the Messiah through His teachings, great works and His defeat over death. Now that the mission of John the Baptist was complete, Jesus would begin to show that He was the fulfillment of the Promise made by God the Father in Genesis 3:15 and the fulfillment of all of the prophecies which were made about His coming. Jesus would now begin to show the way to the Kingdom through His teachings and great works. And, Jesus would proclaim that people should repent and believe in Him because He is the Gospel.
Mark tells us that the first four disciples to be called by Christ were Simon who would become Peter, his brother Andrew, James and his brother John. All four of them followed Jesus immediately. They did not think about it and they did not question it. They just did it.
That is what God wants from us. Is this because of God’s pride? No! Pride is a deadly sin and has no place with God. Furthermore, God has shown us His humility, most especially through the Son, time and time again. God has also shown His humility with His mercy and forgiveness as is witnessed in today’s first reading and the people of Nineveh. Think about it: It takes humility to forgive. It is not pride.
The reason why God wants us to follow His Son in faith without thinking is because if we take the time to think about whether we should follow the Son, we give the evil one time to corrupt our thoughts with his lies. Therefore, we should not think about following Christ, we should just do it and He will lead us straight to heaven.
Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus said this because Peter and Andrew were fishermen. But there are two much deeper reasons for Jesus using this phrase. 1. Jesus was showing us with the calling of His first disciples that God has a plan for each of us. We do not have to be someone special, famous or wealthy. It does not matter where we come from or what we do in life. Even a fisherman can be the Rock upon which Christ would build His Church.
2. A fisherman will cast a baited line into the water so that it can be presented to all fish. Some fish will pass it by, but some fish will take the bait. By being fishers of men, the disciples would cast the baited line by evangelizing and proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel to everyone. Some people reject it, but others accept it. Just as the fish who take the bait are fed by the bait, those who accept the Good News are fed by the Word of the Gospel and led to the Kingdom.
Did Peter and Andrew know what Jesus meant by this? No, but they would find out in time. Would they have been so quick to follow Jesus if they did know? Now that is an interesting question.
But consider this analogy: when you decide to marry someone, you may meditate on how wonderful life with that person will be, but you don’t worry about what lies ahead. You already know going in that there will be good days and bad days. So, you just follow them and what will be, will be. You face life together. As the marriage vow goes, “For better or for worse.”
If we can have enough faith in another human-being to follow them in marriage, how can we not have faith in God? He is our Creator from whom all good things come. He is our Savior who will do everything to protect us and keep us from falling into the devil’s traps. There is no higher priority with God than to have us spend eternity with Him in heaven.
After all, we are the bride and Jesus is the groom. When we live out our role as the bride of Christ in heaven, we will find that with Him, there is no “worse”—only better.” We will find that there is no “death do us part” because life in heaven is eternal.
When we take these things to heart, we become believers and followers. We become disciples of Christ and His Spirit within us shows. Our very actions will make others want what we have. As a result, we end up evangelizing even if we do not realize that we are evangelizing. We will become, “fishers of men”.