Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 21, 2024 — Year B
Readings: Jon 3:1-5, 10 / Ps 25 / 1 Cor 7:29-31 / Mk 1:14-20
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about a despondent man who came to his mother and said, “Mom, I’ve stopped going to church, for two reasons. First, I don’t like the people and second, the people don’t like me.” And the mother looked at him and said, “My son, you should go back to church for two reasons. First, you are already fifty-nine years old and second, you are the pastor!”
But, brothers and sisters, as we reflect on the readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are invited to ponder the profound concept of Divine Calling. In the gospel, we witnessed the pivotal moment when Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James, and John to become fishers of men. This summons, with its immediacy and simplicity, carries timeless significance for each of us. The gospel narrative unfolds with a sense of urgency, mirroring the immediacy of Jesus’ call.
In our own lives, we may hear the echoes of that same call, urging us to respond promptly and wholeheartedly to the divine invitation. Jesus calls us to a life of discipleship, to follow Him with courage and conviction. Simon, Andrew, James, and John provide us with inspiring models of immediate obedience. Without hesitation they leave their nets and professions in order to follow Jesus. Their response challenges us to examine our own readiness to abandon whatever may be holding us back from fully embracing our calling.
The metaphor of fishers of men calls us to engage actively in the mission of spreading God’s love and compassion. We are called not merely to catch fish, but to cultivate relationships, to cast the net of love and inclusion. This mission beckons us to be present in our communities, reaching out to those who may be lost or in need of hope and help.
A story was told about a pious Christian lady who had to do a lot of traveling for her business, so she did a lot of flying. But flying made her nervous, so she always took her Bible along with her to read, and it helped her to relax. One day she was sitting next to a man who didn’t believe in God. When he saw her pull out her Bible, he gave a little chuckle and went back to what he was doing. After a while, he turned to her and asked, “Do you really believe all the stuff in there?” The lady replied, “Of course I do. It’s the Bible – the Word of God.” The man said, “Well, what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale?” She replied, “Oh. Jonah. Yes, I believe that. The Bible says that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, and I believe it, and if it had said that Jonah had swallowed the whale, I would believe that too.” The man laughed and asked, “Well, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?” The lady answered, “Well, I don’t really know, but I guess when I get to heaven, I will ask him.” “What if he is not in heaven?” the man asked sarcastically. “Then you can ask him when you reach hell,” the lady replied.
Brothers and sisters, in the first reading, we encountered Jonah’s mission to Ninevah. Here, too, we witnessed the transformative power of responding to God’s call. The people of Ninevah heed Jonah’s warning and repent. This reminds us that our response to God’s call can have a profound impact, not only on our lives, but on the lives of those around us.
In fact, the entire readings of today’s liturgy emphasize the absolute need for total repentance and our immediate need for a quick and prompt response to God’s invitation to repentance. Whereby, we face God’s wrath of perpetual destruction in hellfire should we ever play down the entire content of divine revelation, seeking our redress as portrayed in the funny response of the pious traveler to the atheist in the story.
In the second reading, St. Paul orders the Corinthian Church to waste no time in embracing the message of the Good News and in renewing their lives with repentance. Whereas, the gospel reading describes the summary of Jesus’ preaching, “Repent, and believe in the Good News.” It also describes how Jesus called His first set of disciples, Andrew, Peter, James, and John, which portrays how we sinners need to respond to God’s call with total commitment by abandoning our accustomed style of sinful life.
Today’s readings are all rather extraordinary. Each of them shows an immediate and wonderful response. First Jonah preaches, and the Ninevites surprisingly repent and change immediately. Then Paul calls upon everyone to live in the immediate moment, for the day of the Lord is imminent. Then Jesus calls His disciples, and they leave immediately.
Jesus’ call is offering a whole new world, a new vision and a new set of relationships. The values of the Gospel are revealed in their fullness. If the disciples had paused and thought about what they were doing, they could have dreamed up heaps of reasons why they should not go – their business, their insecurities, and so on. They did not let these things get in the way.
Thank goodness they responded to the call straightaway. This is not encouraging recklessness, because surely Jesus called people after a lot of prayer and discernment, and He called disciples whom He had observed were already living in the way that showed their longing for the value of the Kingdom to be established in its fullness. Along comes Jesus and He says, “The time has arrived. Come, follow me.” And they do – immediately. It is what they had been waiting for.
In our lives, brothers and sisters, Jesus calls each one of us in big and small ways. In the daily events of life, in our words, actions, and priorities, let us respond immediately and with trust. As we reflect on the readings today, let us prayerfully consider the nature of God’s call in our lives. Are we attuned to His voice? Are we ready to leave behind our nets and respond with unwavering trust? May the example of the first disciples inspire us to embrace our calling with joy and purpose, recognizing that in our response lies the potential for transformation, both for ourselves and for the world.