Jonah 3:1-5, 10, Gospel –Mark 1:14-20
The first reading and the Gospel for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time brings out the power of God’s Word. God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and announce the need to repentance. At first Jonah refuses because he doesn’t think that the Ninevites are deserving of God’s mercy, and he tries to run away from God. He ends up in the belly of the whale. He is delivered from that situation and God calls him again. This time he obeys, but his heart is still not in this mission. But, when he begins to preach in Ninevah his call to repentance touches a chord in the hearts of the people, they proclaim a fast and repent. God’s word is powerful! Even when someone like Jonah reluctantly accepts the word and preaches it most likely, in a half-hearted manner, the Word of God has power.
In the Gospel we hear of Jesus proclaiming the Gospel of God, and in the midst of it he passes Simon(Peter) and his brother Andrew, and James and his brother John as they worked on the fishing nets in their boats. Jesus call to them was simple and direct, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” We are told that without hesitation these four men abandon their nets and follow Jesus. Throughout the rest of the Gospels we hear of them faithfully following Jesus, then being called to be four of the twelve apostles, and after Pentecost they went out to proclaim God’s word and to Baptize as Jesus instructed them.
From the experience of Jonah we learn that we should take God’s word seriously. Jonah, for some reason, thought that he knew better than God when it came to dealing with the Ninevites. He ultimately learned that God’s way worked out much better for them. We can end up in the same sad situation as Jonah by not taking God’s Word seriously. But how do we know it is God’s work, or just some thought, or even a temptation? The key is to have someone or a group with the gift of wisdom to guide us and to help us discern. That is why the Church has always warned us to avoid personal interpretation of the Scriptures. It is so easy to misunderstand or read into a verse something that could actually end up leading us away from God. Peter, Andrew, James and John received a direct call from God to follow him and they immediately left all to accompany Jesus. How to men hear the call to Priesthood today, men and women to Religious life, and men and women to the single or married lives? Those who think they are called to Priesthood or Religious Life go through a discernment process than can take several years. This is done with the help of a spiritual director, vocation director, and probably a few others who can help and guide the person. The need for discernment is also present for those discerning the single or married life. The recent Synod on Families addressed the need for better preparation for marriage. The formal preparation for marriage is commonly six months to a year, while for Priesthood and Religious Life it is at least four years before Ordination and Profession.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.