HE INAUGURATED A NEW ERA – 21 JANUARY 2018 – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (b)
Jon 3:1-5, 10; 1 Cor 7:29-31; Mk 1:14-20
Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau
Jesus begins his ministry preaching the inauguration of the Kingdom of God.
Mark adds an emergency nature to the call to belong to the Kingdom ‘immediately!’ He wants to give a lesson of catechesis to anyone who one day feels called by Jesus. The passage does not refer to the vocation of priests and nuns. It speaks about the call of every person to be a disciple. It is about the vocation to baptism.
Jesus, is moving quickly, in a hurry not only in walking, but in speaking, in inviting to follow him. It looks like a race against time. In fact it is the anxiety to announce, “the time has come.”
It was noted that, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus never stops: passing along the Sea of Galilee (v. 16), he calls and does not turn back to see if the disciples have accepted his invitation. He goes straight over (v. 19), calls the other two and then continues on his way without stopping for a moment (v. 21). The Master leaves no room for rest even for a moment. He does not grant months off, days or hours of vacation. He demands that the disciple keeps pace, always.
Simon and Andrew, James and John are called from the middle of their work. God does not turn to the idlers, people without ideals, without concrete benchmarks, but to those who are fully inserted in their social, economic, family context. The adherence to Christ in faith is never a stopgap, a consolation for those who failed in other goals, but a proposal made to committed people.
The Ninevites were granted forty days of time to accept or reject the invitation to conversion. Elisha was allowed to “say goodbye to his father and mother” before following Elijah (1K 19:20). To his own Jesus does not grant any postponement. To one he will say: “Let the dead bury their dead; as for you, leave them and proclaim the kingdom of God. Whoever has put his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:59-62).
The answer to his call must be given immediately. The separation must be total and immediate; nothing can prevent to follow him. Even the most sacred affections, such as those that bind one to the parents and the family, attachment to one’s profession, the need to have an economic and social security, the desire not to lose friends, everything must be sacrificed if it is in conflict with the new life to which Jesus calls.
Translated by Fr John Ladesma
Abridged by Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF
Noticeable in this Sunday’s Mass readings is the theme of repentance.
On hearing Jonah’s announcement that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days, all of its inhabitants, great and small, people and beasts alike, proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth.
While not specifically mentioned, the urgency of repentance is simmering in between the lines of the second reading: time is running out; the world in its present form is passing away!
Similarly, in the gospel reading, repentance is what Jesus asked of men in the inauguration of his public ministry: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15).
As a matter of fact, even God repented in the first reading: “When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out” (Jon 3:10).
But wait! Repentance suggests a change of heart, a turning away from a previous disposition that is wrong. If God is almighty, all-knowing, perfect, unchanging and everything, he can’t possibly repent. Correct?
Correct. However, to understand the Jonah story properly we need to understand the biblical use of the word “repent” or similar attributes as applicable to God. Referring to a similar passage in Genesis 6:6 in which God is said to “regret” that he had made man, St. John Paul II explains that the Bible is actually speaking of a Father who feels compassion for humanity and shares its pain (cf. Dominum et Vivificantem, n.39). In other words, the biblical meaning of “repent” or “regret”, when attributed to God, stresses the internal movement of God’s feelings, which are filled with love and compassion. God’s “repentance” in the Jonah story is not a change of heart as the word is generally understood to mean. Rather, it is an anthropomorphic expression (the attribution of human features, feelings, and behavior to nonhuman beings) often employed by Old Testament literatures to emphasize God’s love and compassion for the humans, or for the inhabitants of Nineveh who repented their sins in the Jonah story.
Consistent with the theme of repentance, the Marcan account of the call of the first disciples differs from the Johannine account (Jn 1:35 ff) in its emphasis on complete abandonment: “Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mk 1:20).