Sunday 24 January
Third Sunday of the Year
Jonah 3: 1-5; 10 I Corinthians 7: 29-31 Mark 1: 14-20
Human lives are constantly being transformed by the Word of God.
Our first two readings for today, ‘Word of God Sunday’, give specific examples of radical changes in many different lives, inspired by the preaching of God’s Word.
Today’s Gospel takes us even further, to show us how and why, for every Christian, a personal catalyst exists for this kind of radical change. The greatest of the inspirations and incentives towards new life, for the realisation of the best of our human potential in an infinity of different ways, are brought into effect through the life and mission of Jesus Christ.
In the first reading, the message of Jonah doesn’t sound particularly hopeful (does it?) – ‘Only forty days more and the city is going to be destroyed’.
But, in the words of the story, Jonah is delivering this particular message ‘in obedience to the word of the Lord’. He’s following a lead given him by the God who created us in the first place. And the Lord’s work of Creation continues, for every day, in the lives of those who are attentive to the words of his prophets.
St Paul, in today’s second reading, shows us one of the great strengths of the Christian way of life by illustrating how we are all capable of living on different levels at the same time. Perhaps the current pandemic is teaching us the same sort of thing: ‘Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted’ says Jesus (at the start of his preaching in St Matthew’s Gospel).
Today we hear, in the Gospel of St Mark, how Jesus began his preaching with the message of God’s Kingdom, linked with his calling of particular disciples.
‘The time has come’, Jesus says.
St Paul – a bit like Jonah perhaps – said ‘our time is short’.
The message of Jesus meanwhile (interpreted by St Paul and many other Christians) is the one that offers us the deepest source of the hope, together with other virtues, from within the life of God Himself, that can never fail in animating a truly Christian experience. When God’s Kingdom is among us, here and now, the potential for good, and for permanent change for the better, is unlimited by bad news such as that mentioned in passing by St Paul (affecting ‘those who mourn’ and ‘those who have to deal with the world’).
Whatever our current situation, the deepest motive for Christian activity is going to be found in what Jesus Christ is saying to us at this particular moment.
In today’s Gospel, on the shore of the lake, Jesus sees four men in boats, engaged in different activities, mending their nets, helping their friends and workmates with the latest catch.
They are working between the land and the water, two distinctive elements to characterise our natural life, sustaining us in the way we live, representing the great diversity of choice that prevails over our human potential.
It is only Jesus who is able to give to those men – and to ourselves – a single purpose within a life that is unified in the service of others. ‘I will make you into fishers of men’, he says. The purpose of God’s Kingdom, announced by Jesus, is to make us into something that sounds impossible but is actually life-saving. Instead of being caught in a net, instead of drowning, instead of forgetting the purpose for which we are made, we are invited by Jesus to recognise God’s own purpose for us, revealed by himself.
Jesus, as we heard at Christmas time, is the Word of God incarnate.
It is enough to listen to him .. and to pray for all our activities, as we hear what he has to say to all our closest Christian neighbours: –
‘Go and do thou likewise’!
Fr Martin Gowman
Parish Priest; St Benet’s, beccles
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