We are in the third week of Ordinary Time. The readings this week emphasize the absolute necessity for us to repent and to promptly respond to God’s call. In Baptism we are called to follow Him, love Him and to have a personal relationship with Him.
The first reading is dramatic but reminds us that God had to deal with the disobedient, fleeing prophet Jonah, to turn him around—convert him. Thus repenting, Jonah would go to Nineveh to preach repentance and to bring people back to God. The people of Nineveh, however, accepted Jonah as God’s prophet, and promptly responded to God’s call for repentance as Jonah preached it. Remarkably, when Jonah preached, the Ninevites believed God and repented. It is clear that conversion in Nineveh was effected, not by prophetic eloquence, but by God’s mercy.
The second reading also urges us to be converted and to accept the “Good News” that Jesus preached. Thinking that the end was near and that the second coming of Jesus was imminent, Paul discouraged marriage and urged slaves not to try to gain their freedom. But the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World makes clear that it is precisely through engagement with the concerns of the world that Jesus’ followers are to exercise their discipleship. Saint Paul had to be strict and detailed in his moral teachings to the Christians in Corinth. He wanted them to live in total freedom and detachment because nothing they possessed, whether material or personal, was permanent; everything could disappear at a moment’s notice. No matter whether life is very good or very bad, nothing lasts except the fundamental values of truth and love, of freedom and justice and one’s personal relationship with God. Hence, Paul wanted the Corinthians to be vigilant and to prepare for the end of time.
Today’s Gospel describes Jesus’ arrival in Galilee and His preaching, challenging people to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” Just as John the Baptist did, Jesus called for repentance, meaning to change one’s mindset or the direction of one’s life, or setting new priorities. Repentance also means to hate sin, rather than merely regretting the consequences of one’s sins.
The second part of the Gospel describes the call of the disciples. In this narration of how Jesus called His first disciples, Andrew, Peter, James and John, today’s Gospel also emphasizes our duty to respond to God’s call with total commitment. Jesus began His public ministry immediately after John the Baptist was arrested. According to Mark, Jesus selected four fishermen directly from their fishing boats. Jesus wanted these simple and ordinary men who lacked education and social status to be His disciples and to continue His mission. The call of the disciples as well as our own call to discipleship remind me of the beautiful words of St. Theresa of Calcutta: God does not see our ability but our availability, not our achievements but our commitment.
We are all called by God, both individually, and collectively as a parish community, to continue Jesus’ mission by preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom and to live a life of holiness. We are all called by baptism; our own unique vocations should enable us to become what God wants us to be. In the words of St. Francis Sales, we are expected to bloom where we are planted. Let us be thankful to God for calling us to be members of His Church and for bestowing upon us our own unique vocations. Let us remember that it is through our vocations that we transmit Christ’s light, His unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness.
Next week we celebrate Catholic Schools Week in the United States. Catholic education plays an important role in promoting Gospel values and in shaping the lives of our children. In order for our children to learn these values, we, as a parish community, have an essential role in promoting Catholic education and in supporting the Santa Sophia Academy. You will hear more about this topic from our Academy children next week.