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Ordinary Time 3 (B)
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Readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

 

1. Jonah 3, 1-5 and 10

  • I read about two calls and two responses.  First, God commands Jonah: Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.  I know that it is really the second time God has said it, and I will say it as if to remind the man to get going.
  • Sure enough he does: Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh.  Again I can suggest that he undertakes the trip against his will: according to the Lord’s bidding.
  • Later I hear Jonah’s announcement to the people of Nineveh: Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.  On the one hand no children of Israel felt any pity on this empire that had long tormented their nation.  But then none would have dared to travel there to shout such a judgment in the midst of its people.  That is why I search for the right combination of temerity and brashness.
  • And Jonah, indeed all Israel, was shocked to hear the response.  He had gone just a single day’s walk when the people of Nineveh believed God.  I cannot say these words in matter-of-fact tone.  The God of Israel speaks to Israel’s worst enemy and they repent, turning from their evil way.  That phrase is truly the memorable point in the entire book of Jonah, because like in the book of Job our expectations are shattered and our understanding of God becomes more mature.
  • The seat of the evil empire is an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it.  Let me think of today’s urban centers and how long it would take to walk through them.  This is one point of contrast with the Gospel for today, in which Jesus visits small fishing villages to call his disciples.
  • Finally, I want to capture in my voice some of the surprise and even disappointment that Jonah would feel about the evil empire’s change of heart.  The remainder of the book deals with it.
  • Climax of the story: The moment when the people believed God.  It is the response to Jonah’s message and leads to a new favorable judgment from God.
  • Message for our assembly: All three readings for today are set in God’s time, when we should feel a kind of urgency about our calling.  Now is not the time to think it over or put off a decision as we often do in our lives.
  • I will challenge myself: To show above all an admiration at the power of God’s word to change the lives of persons who like ourselves people the secular cities.

 2. I Corinthians 7, 29-31

  • I spend most of my waking hours planning for the future of my family and my household.  The sun will rise tomorrow and the high and low temperatures will be such and such.  My listeners plan their lives in equal fashion.  That is why we should all be startled to hear the apostle say that the time is running out.  Of course he is writing to a community a short time after the Resurrection, and they all expected the imminent return of Christ.  But I cannot let the church off so easily. 
  • Every time we gather to give thanks, we are proclaiming God’s time, the last days when appearances are reversed and the truth will out.  Look at our daily priorities.
  • First, our commitments to others.  Let those having wives act as if not having them.
  • Then, our reactions to success and failure in our daily lives.  Those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing.
  • Finally, our wealth.  I invest my wealth for the long run and I consider it a personal affront to fall short in my own finances.  I fill my house and study with appliances, recordings and other possessions.  And yet, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. 
  • Central point: It is stated in the beginning of the passage and also at the end, and each deserves equal weight.  The world in its present form is passing away.
  • The message for our assembly: We must begin to see our world with God’s eyes.
  • I will challenge myself: To believe firmly what I am saying, against all appearances in 2015 forecasts and plans, peeking as it were over my glasses to suggest to the congregation that there is a lesson for us here.

 Gospel. Mark 1, 14-20

  • What a contrast with the forecasts of doom and destruction we heard in the other two readings!  Jesus is proclaiming the gospel of God but not in a hellfire way: This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Jesus is the most constructive preacher I have ever heard.
  • At the same time, Jesus remains the most radical, most uncompromising preacher I have ever heard.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.  How can I find the tone to convey such biting and climactic words?
  • Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee.  I recall certain crossroads moments in my life—this retreat, that visiting speaker, this news report—never to be repeated.  Just as in my life, most likely his reputation preceded him and they all knew him from before.  But now the time has arrived to take a stand.  Come after me.  He called them.  There is really no call unless someone hears you, as it happens in the passage, and I will make sure that people hear me say it decisively.
  • They abandoned their nets and followed him.  Let this not be a storybook encounter, but one that could and has happened to each of us.  How else explain our presence in the assembly today?  When we repeat in song the catchy phrase, ‘No turning back, no turning back,’ how deeply do we mean it?
  • Central theme: I can hear a suddenness all through these words, and through all the original Greek of Mark’s Gospel.  The word ‘immediately’ appears often there, although the translators of the Lectionary have removed it from our readings.  They abandoned their nets. 
  • Message for our assembly: Are we attuned to God’s time?  Are we ready to repent and give our lives for the Gospel?
  • I will challenge myself: To speak to the sudden arrival of God’s kingdom and the urgent need for reform.

Word to Eucharist: Do we process again as we always have?  Or are we open to change, to the growth in the Spirit that Christ urges on us?

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