On this the third Sunday of ordinary time, the readings call to mind a certain urgency with regard to the shortness of our time in this world. So, if time is short, we must not hold tenaciously to that which is quickly passing away. Rather, we must believe the good news and live for the kingdom of God.
In the first reading, Jonah lamented and warned the Ninevites in a very short sentence, “Only forty days, and Nineveh will be destroyed.” The inhabitants of Nineveh heard the message, believed, repented and God had mercy on them. Jonah’s call included the message he was to deliver, but in today’s gospel the four fishermen are called with no further instruction whatsoever. These men did not seek to become Jesus’ disciples. It was Jesus’ initiative, not theirs, that resulted in their becoming his followers. They are called to a totally uncertain future not knowing what lies in store for them. That is what discipleship involves—faith to step into the unknown, trusting Christ to lead us to the right destination.
In the second reading Paul warns the Corinthians that they must act differently because the world in its present form is passing away. He too refers to the notion of urgency that should mark our lives. However, many of us ignore these signs. perhaps, because we are economically, socially, and materially so comfortable. The truth is that no one is safe, events in history have shown and continue to show that we are all vulnerable. We are called to continually re-evaluate our relationship with God, each other, and the world around us – a call to listen, to accept the good news and to bear witness to it.
In the gospel, Christ preaches the same urgent message as preached by Jonah and John the Baptist: “the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.” Like the Ninevites, the disciples of Christ, heard the word of the master “Follow me” and they simply obeyed and followed him. Each being sensitive to the call and realising there was no more time to waste. Today, Jesus continues to invite us to participate in his mission: “Follow me”. These words or a form of same are used by Jesus on approximately 22 occasions in the gospels. It is a life transforming invitation and mission. Our response too should be urgent and positive. Those who hear and respond are those who are willing to go the extra mile, those ready to collaborate with Christ in his mission and ministry.
Finally, if our time is short, if our world is passing away, if we have only forty days left, and if the kingdom of God is close at hand, why are wickedness, corruption, hatred, killing, immorality, racism, and injustice persisting and increasing in our world?
The burning question is, does the message of Christ stop us in our tracks? Jonah preached just a brief and urgent sermon. To his dismay it was effective. How much longer must we ourselves wait before we till our hearts to plant the word of God? Today, three imperatives, three commands are put before us by Jesus “Repent, Believe, and Follow.” Words that lead to forgiveness, faith, and purpose in life. We must use this short time to “seek what is good and pure, what is noble and true” (Phil 4:8). If time is of the essence, how might our lives be different if we shared more fully in this sense of the immediacy of God’s kingdom?
Mairead Morrissey, OP