Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Gospel –Mark 1:14-20
The first reading and the Gospel for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time bring out the importance of discerning 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.
In the Gospel Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James and John with the simple invitation, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Without hesitation they abandoned their nets and followed Jesus. During the next three years they enter more deeply into his ministry, and are called to be four of the twelve apostles, and after Pentecost they went out to proclaim God’s word and to Bapitze 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 listening to God’s Word. But how do we know it is God’s word, 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. It is so easy to misunderstand or read into a verse something into a verse of Scripture, or into some event that deeply touches us, that could actually lead us away from God. Discerning God’s Word is important and should be taken seriously as we try to understand what God might be saying to us.
Peter, Andrew, James and John received a direct call from God to follow him and they immediately left all to accompany Jesus. How do 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 help and guide them. There is also a need for discernment 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.
If we take discernment seriously it means that we will take the time to reflect on the decisions we are making. We will seek the wisdom of pastors, spiritual directors and others who have a reputation for giving sound direction and who can guide us through the discernment process. May we avoid the example of Jonah, who thought he know better than God, and find ourselves in the face trouble like his. Instead, follow the example of Peter, Andrew, James and John who for three years listened attentively to Jesus and were prepared to accept his call as leaders in the Church by the time of Christ’s Resurrection.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.