Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
There was this Christian lady that had to do a lot of traveling for her business, so she did a lot of flying. But flying made her nervous so she always took her Bible along with her to read and it helped relax her. One time she was sitting next to a man. When he saw her pull out her Bible he gave a little chuckle and went back to what he was doing. After a while he turned to her and asked, “You don’t really believe all that stuff in there do you?” The lady replied “Of course I do! It is the Bible.” He said, “Well what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale?” She replied “Oh, Jonah. Yes, I believe that; it is in the Bible. The Bible says Jonah was swallowed by a whale, and I believe it. And if it had said that Jonah had swallowed the whale, I would believe that too!” He asked “Well, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?” The lady said “Well I don’t really know. I guess when I get to Heaven I will ask him.” “What if he isn’t in Heaven?” the man asked sarcastically.” Then you can ask him when you reach Hell,” replied the lady.
The three readings today underline the absolute necessity for us of repentance and a prompt response to God’s call. The first reading tells us how God had to deal with the disobedient, fleeing prophet Jonah to turn him around (convert him), so that, he would go to Nineveh to preach repentance there. The wicked people of Nineveh, however, accepted Jonah as God’s prophet at once, and promptly responded to God’s call for repentance as Jonah preached it. In the second reading, Paul urges the Christian community in Corinth to lose no time in accepting the message of the Gospel and in renewing their lives with repentance because Jesus’ second coming may occur at any moment. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus came to Galilee and began preaching, challenging people to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” Just as John did, Jesus also called for repentance, meaning a change in one’s mind or in the direction of one’s life, setting new priorities. Repentance also means hating sin, not just being sorry for the consequences of one’s sins. Believing in the Gospel demands from the hearers a resolution to take Jesus’ words seriously, to translate them into action and to put trust in Jesus’ authority. Jesus preached the Gospel, or Good News, that God is a loving, forgiving, caring and merciful Father Who wants to liberate us and save us from our sins through His son Jesus. By describing the call of Jesus’ first disciples, Andrew, Peter, James and John, today’s Gospel also emphasizes how we, sinners, are to respond to God’s call with total commitment by abandoning our accustomed style of sinful life. Jesus wanted these ordinary, hard-working people as assistants for his ministry because they would be very responsive and generous instruments in the hands of God.
We need to appreciate our call to become Christ’s disciples: Every one of us is called by God, both individually, and collectively as a parish community, to continue Jesus’ mission of preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom and healing the sick. We are called individually to a way of life or vocation: – a religious commitment (priest, deacon, missionary, religious Sister or Brother, marriage partner or single person), plus a particular occupation rising from our talents (medicine, law, teaching, healing, writing, art, music, building and carpentry, home-making, child-rearing….). Our own unique vocation should enable us to become what God wants us to be. As St. Francis Sales puts it, we are expected to bloom where we are planted. Our call, of course, begins with our Baptism and the other Sacraments of Initiation. It is strengthened through the years with the Eucharist and Reconciliation, healed and consoled by Anointing and, for those so called, made manifest in the sacraments of Matrimony or Holy Orders. The amazing truth is that God is relentless in calling us back to Himself even when we stray away from Him. Let us be thankful to God for His Divine grace of calling us to be members of the true Church. Let us remember that it is our vocation in life as Christians to transmit Christ’s Light through our living, radiating Jesus’ unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness and humble service to all in our society.
God Bless You,