CNS photo/courtesy Jundt Art Museum

We all must answer the call

  • January 15, 2015

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Jan. 25 (Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20)

People are not always quick to obey the call of God. Even prophets can be a bit slow. Sometimes they do not agree with the message they are delivering.
Jonah was missioned by God to preach to Nineveh and he promptly ran in the opposite direction. He wanted nothing to do with God’s calling. God had to “persuade” him with calamities and disasters — a storm at sea and three days in the belly of a large fish.

Resigned to his fate, he finally trudged on to Nineveh and delivered the message from God. Much to his chagrin, they heard and responded. After a citywide fast and penitential act, God averted His wrath. Far from being pleased, Jonah was disappointed and angry.

Although the ending of the story is not part of today’s reading, it is probably the most important part. The inhabitants of Nineveh were evil incarnate as far as the Israelites were concerned, and they had a well-deserved reputation for conquest and cruelty. But in this story it turned out that they weren’t so bad after all and they were open to the voice of God.

People can alter their future by harmonizing their minds and hearts with God. The story ends with Jonah in an absolute sulk and God playfully trying to explain to him that the people of Nineveh were just as important to Him.

This theme was picked up again in the New Testament. It was often the hated Samaritans, Romans or tax collectors who responded most enthusiastically to the teachings and presence of Jesus. The story could be rewritten with a modern application, and probably with just as much shock value. The people we hate and fear are also loved by God.

How would we respond to God asking us to do something we did not want to do? What if God asks us to minister to a person or group for whom we have no love — even very negative feelings? Do we rejoice when God blesses and shows mercy to those whom we despise or are we resentful?

Paul felt the approaching Day of the Lord and felt in his heart and mind that the world as he knew it was going to be swept away. When the Lord was finished, life and society would be very different indeed. He advised his community to “travel lightly,” clinging to nothing. They were not to get too deeply engrossed or involved in worldly affairs but be ever vigilant and ready to meet the Lord.

The present form of this world is definitely passing away. We sense this and it causes us anxiety. Everything seems to change or disappear at a dizzying pace. To live in peace during times like ours, it is necessary to be centred on God, who alone does not change.

This sense of being on the threshold of a new world pervades the story of the call of the apostles in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus proclaimed that the day had arrived — it was time! God had come to reclaim the Earth and to remake it according to His will. The world was going to be under new management.

Jesus called on them to have a change of heart and mind and really believe that this was something to rejoice in — good news. Perhaps Simon, Andrew, James and John “travelled lightly” as Paul advised. They were busy with their lives and their jobs but at the same time they listened expectantly for a higher voice. That voice arrived in the person of Jesus.

Fishing was a fine profession, but the greatest one of all involved netting and gathering souls for God. The force of Jesus’ words and the urgency of the moment inspired them to literally drop everything and follow Him. They did not appear to engage in any discernment or show any signs of hesitation.

Each one of us is called in a unique way and we live in a time equally charged with critical importance. Most of us experience some sort of call in our lives.

Hopefully, we will be spiritually aware enough to hear it.

We can run like Jonah and offer excuses or leap to respond to the call as the apostles did. The future of the world depends on how well we all respond to our call.

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