3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“How To Answer The Call Of Christ?”
The Gospel of today tells us what the characteristics of people’s answers to the call of Christ should be: immediacy, generosity and a definite break from one’s past life.
The first reading links up with this, not so much through the example of Jonah (who tries to escape the mission he is given) but through the examples of the people of Nineveh who responded positively when called to convert.
The second reading stresses that we have very little time at our disposal and need to use it well. Our life is precious, and we cannot run the risk of spoiling it by ignoring the call of Christ.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Jonah 3:1-5, 10.
The first reading has to do with the rather stubborn figure of Jonah. Reluctant to go where God wanted, he disobeyed God, was shipwrecked, ended up in the belly of a whale that saved him and was later deposited on the shore unharmed. God commanded him a second time, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” Jonah dragged himself off to do as he had been bid to do. To the Ninevites he announced, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be destroyed!” On hearing this message the Ninevites “believed God; they proclaimed a fast…. God changed his mind about the calamity that he said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”
The attitude of Jonah represents the Jews of that time and the self-righteous who refuse to listen to the very possibility that pagans may be converted. He is one of those who believe only in punishment and destruction. This is the reason why Jonah the prophet refused in the first instance to fulfil the mission that God entrusted to him. He would rather die than give up his wish for revenge on the pagans and all foreigners, without distinction.
Jonah’s ideas are what many Christians entertain in their heads right now. There are those in our communities, those who are unhappy because God shows mercy to others. There are also many Christians anxiously waiting to see the Church triumph over its enemies, waiting in anticipation to see their defeat and humiliation.
When we encounter wicked people and people who have different beliefs and values to ours, we are tempted to think that it is not worth trying to change their hearts and minds; we look upon them as totally and irrevocably lost. Can there be situations so desperate that the love of God cannot prove to be stronger? The people of Israel and some of us, who think they are upright, have in reality stony hearts and do not listen to the voice of the prophets that God sends to them, while the people of Nineveh, the despised pagans and sinners, changed their ways as soon as they heard God’s invitation to repentance.
Is there anything that Christians of today can learn from this story? Don’t we sometimes find pagans more ready to admit their sins and who listen with greater attention to the call to convert than so-called ‘disciples’ of Christ? The Old Testament reading of today teaches us that there are no enemies to defeat, but only brothers and sisters to love, convert and lead to happiness.
In the Psalm, one of the Wisdom group, the poet ponders his need for divine guidance. His prayer is suitable for all who answer the divine call, whether they be Ninevites, Jonah or the disciples in the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31.
In the second reading, Paul points out to his Corinthian converts that “the appointed time has grown short.” He continues, “For the present form of this world is passing away.” Like the ‘Ninevites’ of the first reading, like Paul in his message to the Corinthians, and like the disciples in the Gospel, we must recognize the nature of time and give God’s call priority before it’s too late.
Paul wants Christians to give earthly things their due importance; they are important all right, but they are not eternal. This is why we must be ready to make courageous choices and renunciations for love of our brothers and sisters. Some people do not marry because they scorn marriage; this is all wrong. If a person does not marry in order to serve the community better, it is a praiseworthy thing; and it testifies that the condition of married people he or she wants is neither the only nor the ideal one.
Furthermore, it is not for lack of appreciation for the things of this world that somebody gives up their wealth and easy life. What urges him or her to such renunciation is the convictions that love for one’s brothers and sisters is far superior to all material goods. Earthly things pass away, but love is eternal.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus begins his public ministry. He decides to start his work after John the Baptist had been arrested. This is a warning to the reader; if John was arrested, Jesus could one day be arrested too, and so could all those who join him in proclaiming his message. Later on he will warn his followers of persecutions they might face.
Jesus begins his work by forming his school of discipleship. He first had to bring the ‘first four’ to the repentance and belief in the ‘Good News’ that he required of all. To them he would reveal the ‘mystery of the Kingdom’. Their thoughts had to become the thoughts of God and not the thoughts of men and women and of the world. They were to follow Jesus to Jerusalem, the city of his enemies, the city of his death and his Resurrection. Each one of us is invited to identify with them, to be with Jesus as he preached to the other towns. Are we prepared to join these ‘four’ in the school of Jesus?
Today, in this modern world, the ideals of the ‘Kingdom’ will need a task-force to implement them. So Jesus calls all disciples in the service of the Kingdom. Casting nets and mending them represent ‘Mission and Maintenance’, the twin arms of the apostolate. ‘Mission’ to those who are not yet in Christ’s net; ‘Maintenance’ in the routine task of serving those who are already disciples. However we seem more familiar with the tasks of maintenance than mission.
Catholic evangelisation has been compared to fishermen waiting for the fish to jump into the boat. The time has come to give priority to the proclamation of the ‘Good News’ from God over all other activities. Each baptized Catholic has a key role to play in forming this task-force.
Jesus teaches a completely new attitude, which he describes with two words: Repentance and belief in the ‘Good News’. To repent means to turn away from sin and evil and to begin a better way of life. It is a change of direction, leaving behind our old mentality and values and adopting a new mindset and new values. Jesus brings to the world something new, a new way of thinking and living.
To enter into this new vision, Jesus requires of each person a readiness to turn away from the old life standards that are not compatible with his teachings and the values of the Kingdom. One cannot be called a Christian if one hates or despises people from another culture or religion. God does not tolerate hypocrisy: saying one thing and doing the opposite. As Jesus will say: “You cannot serve two masters”, we have to commit to a choice.
Such a radical rejection of all previous values and evil ways is only possible with faith. Any real reform of life, to be sincere and lasting, has got to be nourished by faith in the ‘Good News’ that Jesus brought. To truly believe is to trust firmly in the Rock that cannot be shaken, that is God himself. God has now revealed himself in Jesus who is calling his listeners to put their faith in him.
In Baptism we have responded to this first demand of Jesus: we rejected Satan and all his empty promises and put our faith in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Do we still stand by our Baptismal Promises today? Can we remember what they are?
The readings of today tell us what the characteristics of peoples who answer to the call of Christ should be: immediacy, generosity, and a complete change from one’s past life. The readings also stress that we have little time at our disposal and we need to use it well. Our life is a gift from God and is precious. We cannot run the risk of spoiling it stupidly by ignoring the call of Christ.
More good news is that no one is tied to a planned fate; no one is doomed to embrace disaster. By choosing to repent we can change our lives. Repentance is good news because it means that nothing is settled, nothing is sealed. Punishment that has been planned can always be cancelled. Things can change. If God can begin again, and by his mercy, then so can we, again and again.
Do we recognize the nature of time and give God’s call top priority?
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … Jonah was reluctant to go and do what God wanted. Are we sometimes inflexible and bull-headed in our thinking; knowing all too well what God would want us to do, but stubbornly follow our own desires and preferences or the favoured course of action that our worldly standards would want?
Mon. … Do we still look upon others who have different beliefs and values as people undesirable and not worth associating with? Do we sometimes find gratification or amusement in the humiliation and disgrace of those whom we regard as opponents and rivals?
Tues. … The Old Testament Reading teaches us that there are no enemies to defeat, but only brothers and sisters to love and convert. In the process of converting and bringing others to Christ we bring our own faith and beliefs to higher levels. Divine guidance is always given to those who answer God’s call.
Wed.… In the second reading, Paul points out to his Corinthian converts that “the appointed time has grown short.” He continues, “For the present form of this world is passing away.” Like the Ninevites of the first reading, like Paul in his message to the Corinthians, and like the disciples in the Gospel, we must recognize the nature of time and give God’s call priority.
Thurs. … Catholic evangelisation has been compared to fisherman waiting for the fish to jump into the boat. The time has come to give priority to the proclamation of the ‘Good News’ from God over all other activities. Each baptized Catholic has a key role to play in forming this task-force. Have we brought ourselves to repentance and belief in the Gospel? Do we fully understand Jesus’ teaching and his new way of thinking and living?
Frid. … Make a list of ten aspects of your life that consume much of your attention and energy. Identify those by means of an ‘X’ that interfere with a Christ-centered life. You now need to make some choices and changes in your life if God is to become the centre of your very being. You cannot serve two masters. Let us pray for faith to help us reject undesirable previous values and that our reform may be sincere and everlasting.
Sat. … How enthusiastic are we at present to answer the call of Jesus? Will our commitment and faith fall away during trial and persecution? Will we abandon our walk with Jesus in the Way when our Cross becomes too heavy? We must consider the challenges and failures we will have to endure when we respond to His call.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, Jonah like Your Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ was sent to preach repentance. He calls us to change our ways and to accept his new vision. We pray that You direct our thoughts and actions and may we recognize the nature of time and give Your call top priority.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.