Ordinary 3

The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
2015 – Cycle B
Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25; I Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

One of my observations of contemporary life is that we experience everything as urgent.

  • A student had to answer his phone the other day when he was in the middle of a haircut and shave: “Can I call you later, I’m in the middle of …” Obviously the call wasn’t urgent but there has come to be a craving to immediately answer all claims on our lives.
  • Every time I “surf” the television – invariably across the screen on CNN is: BREAKING NEWS. I didn’t know there was so much “breaking news” every day!
  • Winter ‘snowfalls’ are now ‘nor’easters’ with their doomsdays scenarios causing us to rush to the supermarket and empty it’s shelves of all products we will need to weather – the storm(?)
  • I’ve even experienced people answering and talking on their phone in church in the midst of worshipping God. How much more important can we be that we even eclipse God?

For all of its wonder, our contemporary understanding of life and attending technology has upped the ante on our experience of urgency. Everything is urgent and each of us is at the epicenter of it all. The underlying message is that we are important and indispensable. This lifestyle is now considered an addiction called FOMO: the Fear of Missing Out. Such a lifestyle is detrimental to the spiritual life.

It is a sobering fact to remember that there is good reason we put names on tombstones – we aren’t that important and are quickly forgotten. Lent begins with a good dose of that reality: “You are dust and to dust you will return!”

Would that our contemporary experience of such urgency was applied to the spiritual life?

Throughout the Scriptures today there is urgency, but a different urgency then that of contemporary life

  • “Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed”.
    The Ninevites hear a one-sentence sermon with no mention of God and they repent!
    Why haven’t you and I?
  • “After John was arrested….Jesus came to Galilee…”
    It is as if the arrest of John is the catalyst for Jesus to go public. Not only does he begin proclaiming God’s immediate presence in the world but calls people to repent of their sins while starting to gather a circle of coworkers.
    Something is about to happen and Jesus may not know what it is but he begins to act.
    Have you and I begun to act?
  • “Come after me…”
    Simon and Andrew immediately and without question abandon their livelihood on the spot and follow Jesus. Are you and I following Jesus?
  • “Then Jesus called them.”
    James and John leave not only their livelihood but their father.

There is a sense of urgency in all this and Paul is succinct, “the time is running out”. But the urgency of the scriptural stories is not for the things we contemporary people clamor for.

When is the best time to repent? The Ninevites know deep in their heart: NOW. NOW is the time. NOW is always the time. Yet why do we drag our feet?  When was the last time you went to confession? And I mean a real introspective and self-reflective confession of your life choices. Not the childish confessions of swearing, missing Mass and taking the Lord’s name in vain but the confession that avoids self-destruction.

Are we about God’s work as Jesus was? Like John’s arrest, what do we need to set a fire under us?  Are we aware of the immediate presence of God in the world or do you still believe that God lives in some far off heaven where God is easily ignored? A God that is so close to us as our next breath, as the next moment, can be frightening – can it not? Isn’t that true of intimacy between humans? Why we don’t reveal our true selves to each other? How much more so with God; as lover, friend, confidant.

Have you ever abandoned anything as important as your livelihood or family for any reason? What have any of us abandoned to follow Jesus? If we haven’t left something behind can we really be following Jesus?

There is an interesting contrast hidden in today’s readings.

James and John, Simon and Andrew respond to Jesus immediately; for Jonah, this is the second time God addresses him to preach to Nineveh – with the same words. You may remember after the first time Jonah ran away and got on a ship to get as far away from God as possible. How foolish and ridiculous! Yet how many of us when called by God run away from God? …are running away right now in our lives?

As urgently and immediately as we respond to our phones and texts messages, would that…

  • we would respond to each other with forgiveness, compassion and understanding;
  • that we would give each other the benefit of the doubt and second and third chances;
  • that we would as readily go to prayer as often as we check our phones to see if anyone called;
  • that we would offer hope by walking with another person carrying their burden;
  • that we would respond with joy and laughter to life filled with the immediacy of God.

This is an urgency worth engaging because it is a response to someone who is calling you.

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