Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 24, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Jon 3:1-5, 10 / Ps 25 / 1 Cor 7:29-31 / Mk 1:14-20
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
“Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
Those are the words of Jesus in our gospel today. In the spirit of that command, I have a confession: When I was a teenager sitting in worship service, I spent way more time flipping through the pew Bible than I did actually listening to the sermon. And so, I guess, since I’m standing up here preaching now, that’s my penance.
But as I sat there, I typically would open the Bible and read the readings that were being preached upon that day. And then invariably, I’d read the footnotes. And then I would start following the little subnotes, and I would read them, and I would read, and I would read, and all of a sudden I would realize that the sermon was almost over and I had no idea what he was talking about. But I think, as a result of that I really came to appreciate the scripture.
Not only is today the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, but it is also the Sunday of the Word of God. In 2019, on September 30, at the Memorial of St. Jerome, Pope Francis established the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as the Sunday of the Word of God, as a reminder that the scriptures are fundamental to our faith. This doesn’t mean you’re supposed to just read your Bible on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. Ideally, you read it daily.
Not only is the scripture fundamental to our faith, it’s also fundamental to our Mass. I remember when I was in college, and I attended Mass for the first time, I was struck by how much scripture there was. There were three readings, there was a psalm, but not only that. Many of the things that are said come straight out of scripture. Here are just some examples:
“Behold the Lamb of God” – from the first chapter of the Gospel of John. It’s what John the Baptist said when Jesus walked by.
“I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof” – from the eighth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. It’s what the centurion said to Jesus, when he had come to Jesus to request the healing of his servant.
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts” – That comes right from the sixth chapter of Isaiah. Because our worship has its roots in scripture.
The Bible is not a normal book, and when we are studying it, we have to keep that in mind. Some people look at the Bible as a rule book. As a list of do’s and don’ts. In fact, the Pharisees came up with a list of over six hundred requirements, and they loved to point out when people weren’t following them. Although there are plenty of rules in the Bible, it is not, fundamentally, a rule book.
Some people look at it as a history book. They look at the stories about Israel; the stories of the life of Christ in the Gospel; the stories of the travels of the apostles in the letters. And certainly there is a lot of history in the Bible. But at its core, it is not a history book.
Some people think of it as just a book of moral stories, or fables, that teach you how you should act in different situations. Certainly there are plenty of those in the Bible. But that’s not what it’s about at its core.
If I had to sum up the Bible to someone who had never opened its cover, I would sum it up this way: The Bible is a love story. It’s the love story of God and His bride: us. As we study the scriptures, a very clear picture of God comes out. It comes out that God is love and God, at His core, wants a relationship with His bride. And that bride – us – is not the best bride.
As you read the scriptures, you read about people making bad choices, people turning away. But you always see, no matter what, God is actively trying to reconnect with her. He is actively looking for her, so much so that He actually entered into the world so that He could get closer to us to bring us into a relationship with Him.
In the gospel today, we hear the story of Jesus calling His first disciples. And He calls us – He calls us into a relationship with Him. He calls us to come with Him. But we have to remember the words of St. Jerome: Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ. If we want to come to know God, and to have a powerful and intimate relationship with Him, we need to study it.