Homily for The 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

There’s No More Time! Let’s Repent, Believe and Become Fishers of Men!!

Rdgs: (1st: Jon 3, 1-5. 10; Ps 24, 4-9; 2nd: 1Cor 7, 29-31: Gos: Mk 1, 14-20)

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

On this third of Sunday of ordinary time the church encourages us to re-examine and change our ways in order to avoid the imminent wrath of God, and to enjoy his mercy. She equally reminds us of its urgency (in relation to time), which is one theme that runs through and unifies the three readings of this Sunday. Jonah laments: “Only forty days, and Nineveh will be destroyed”, Paul reminds us that: “Our time is growing short”, while Jesus Christ proclaims: “The time has come…the kingdom of God is close at hand.” So, we must not hold tenaciously to this passing world. Finally, She encourages us to collaborate with Jesus as: “Fishers of Men,” in order to transform and save our world.

The first reading is a proof that God is indeed a very merciful father. Even though his anger boils so hard, all he wants is that we turn away from our present unhealthy ways. The inhabitants of Nineveh heard the message, believed it, repented and God had mercy on them and their city. The story of Nineveh is simply a sign that God loves mercifully and that history is in His hands. This mercy and love is what He wishes to use us to communicate to our world. Hence, he says to us: “Up, go…and…preach to them!” Many times I have paused to reflect on whether the homilies, sermons, and religious lectures we receive almost on daily basis make any impact on our lives and world. I have often asked myself: If these sermons touch us as we often claim they do, then, why are we and our world still the way we are today? Why are wickedness, falsehood, stubbornness to the will of God, hatred, armed robbery, killing, immorality, corruption, injustice, and agony persisting and increasing in our land? Often times one hears people say things like: “The Priest or Pastor preached well! Today’s message was very interesting and powerful!” Sometimes also, one hears voices from the congregation exclaiming: “Amen! Ride on pastor! Yes Lord! And, even loud ovations and applauses for the preacher. These either mean that the message was “okay,” or simply what they wanted to hear. While these are not absolutely bad, however they prompt me to further ask: Does the message actually make any impact in our lives? To such compliments I have simply and always responded, “I have preached well only when the message has transformed your life and bears good fruits in you!” Jonah preached just a brief sermon, and the people of Nineveh believed in God, repented and fasted with sack cloths. How much longer must we ourselves wait before the stone is rolled off our hearts, before we till our hearts for the word of God. What do we do with all the word of God we hear every day?  Let us heed the good news of today with urgency because “our time is growing short.” The best sign that we have accepted the good news is conversion, repentance and living it daily.

In the Second reading, Paul reminds us that: “Our time is growing short…for the world we know is passing away!” What Paul refers to here is simply the notion of sensitivity and urgency that should mark our lives and actions. Therefore, he draws our attention to the signs of the time. Unfortunately, many of us deceive ourselves thinking that we are okay the way and where we are. This is possibly because we are economically and materially comfortable. The truth is that none is safe! So, everyone must get ready because Paul’s warning affects everyone; the married, the single, those mourning, those enjoying, those buying and selling, the rich and the poor, masters and slaves, leaders and followers, etcetera. This warning comes at the appropriate time. So, it is a warning that calls us to revaluate our relationship with God and with our world. It is a warning not to be idle, but to go on preaching the good news of Jesus Christ in order to save our people and world.

In today’s gospel, we continue in the period of transition that commenced last week. Today John the Baptist has almost concluded his testimony and ministry, while Jesus has started his in Galilee. Today, Jesus preaches the same message of repentance preached by Jonah and John the Baptist his predecessors. In a special way, he calls us to: “Repent and believe the good news” that he has come to deliver. Like the first and second readings, this message comes with a sense of urgency. We are to repent principally from stubbornness of heart that has made it difficult for us to yield totally to God as Nineveh did. The good news we must turn around and believe is that of God’s kingdom which brings us: mercy and forgiveness; peace and the restoration of relationship with God (Eph 6:15);  the hope of heaven and everlasting life (Col 1:23); the truth of God’s reliable word (Col1:5), the promise and reward to those who seek God (Eph 3:6); immortality and everlasting life (Tim 1:10); salvation, and liberty to live as children of one God (Eph 1:13).  

In addition to these, Jesus is ready to make us “Fishers of Men.” He is ready to make us worthy instruments of the good news. So, Jesus continues to invite us to participate in his mission: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  However, we must be mindful of the condition attached: “Follow me!” This is a life transforming invitation and ministry. Our response to it should be positive, because it is for our good, that of our brethrens, and that of our world. Fishers of Men simply means partners in the kingdom, co-workers, and shareholders in the work of the gospel. Fishers of Men are those who willing to go extra mile in order to help their brothers and sisters heed the urgent call of Jesus Christ: “repent, and believe…for our time is growing short…and the kingdom of God is at hand…” They are those who like Jonah, Peter, Paul and the disciples in our readings today remind others that our time is growing short. They are the “time keepers” and those who themselves have believed, repented, and now bear the good news of salvation. They are supposed to be you and me listening to this message.

Today God wants us to be partners in the collaborative ministry of transforming and changing lives, the ministry of enabling our brothers and sisters to turn in the right direction. Like Jonah, we may have to hear the call more than once before we get it right. We may have to experience turbulent seas and waves; abandon our fishing nets, hooks and boats like Peter. Also, we may have to abandon our suitcases loaded with worldly degrees and wisdom, our comfort zones, our friends, our elegant wives and children, our beautiful countries and our people in order to gain respect for the Almighty God. Hopefully and joyfully, we will all see the value of a single message, which has the capacity to turn an entire city in a new direction. All these are challenging adventures towards a powerful and loving God. Hence, we should never under rate the potential and efficacy of our collaborative ministry of preaching and witnessing to our world. A single message transformed Nineveh and, a single message from Peter, the veteran Fisher of Men, during the first Pentecost transformed three thousand people on the spot and moved them in the opposite direction (Acts 2, 40-42). Let us therefore implore God by saying: “Lord, make me know your ways, teach me your paths!”

Peace be with You!

Maranatha!!

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