A first glance at today’s readings gives an indication of people being called and following; people who stuck to their call without hesitation or resistance. And, if we read these texts in isolation, we could be left feeling a bit disheartened. However, if we look a little bit closer at the story of all those involved in today’s readings and Gospel then we can see that they, like us, had their flaws and their moments of doubt.
In the first reading Jonah follows God’s call and goes to warn the people of Nineveh, they ‘renounced their evil ways’, had a change of heart and behaviour, ‘and God relented’. Well done Jonah, but what is Jonah more famous for? He was swallowed by a whale and spent three days in the belly of the beast until he was regurgitated. How did he find himself in the belly of the whale? He was running away from God. He thought that what God was asking of him was too much and he tried to avoid it.
In our second reading we have St Paul, the greatest of preachers, encouraging his readers and listeners to sort their lives out, put their affairs in order. He is secure in what he is teaching, he has no doubts. But, as we all know, Paul originally persecuted Christians, he was present at the execution of St Stephen; the first martyr; he approved of the stoning of Stephen. That all changed on the road to Damascus, when Jesus appeared to him and changed not only Paul’s life, but the course of history; as Paul was called to take the Good News out to the Gentiles, calling all people to be descendants of Abraham, not just the Jewish people.
In the Gospel, St Mark, makes it sound so straightforward, Jesus walks along a beach and calls 4 fishermen to follow him and become fishers of men. They all appeared to have obeyed instantly, but we know that at crucial times, even these most esteemed saints, abandoned Jesus; denying him as the Christ; leaving him to fend for himself.
There are times when even if we do not run away from God, our actions can appear as if we do not believe in God or trust in Him fully. For me, I can sometimes grudge the time I need to spend fulfilling my calling as a Christian. In the past it would be when I returned to work after Christmas or Easter and heard about all the time people had to spend time with their family or catch up with jobs, their holiday time seemed to be filled with relaxation or getting things done, whereas these times for me were spent going to church.
On reflection, I now realise that these were times I got to spend with my church family, enriching my life. There will always be jobs to be done at home, but all of my church family will not always be with me. I have some wonderful memories of the times I spent with some people who have now gone to the Lord or who have moved to other parishes. If I had given in to those grudges or temptations, I would not have those memories to treasure.
This Sunday has been designated as the Sunday for the Word of God.1 Pope Francis, writes about this day “Devoting a specific Sunday of the liturgical year to the word of God can enable the Church to experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world.” As I said earlier, if we had taken the readings from today in isolation, we could be under the illusion that everyone called followed completely all of the time and never wavered. Even the saints struggled with their calling. But Jesus; the Word of God, made man; has come to encourage us to love, to forgive and to serve.
This is a day to look into our hearts and ask how well do we know the Word of God?
At Christmas, my daughter gave me a gift of a Bible in one Year, this prompts me to look at the Bible every day, and if I manage to stick to it, I will have read the whole Bible by the end of the year. There are various ways of doing this, there is the Bible in a Year podcast with Fr Mike Schmitz,2 or there is the Bible in One Year with Nicky Gumble from the Alpha Course, this can either be done through an App on the computer or by buying a bible which is laid out according to the reading plan for each day.3 There are also other resources available through the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales at their website.4 This includes a seven week course aimed at helping Catholics to get to know the Bible better and is sponsored by the Bible Society, the whole course can be downloaded at their website.
Back in September 2019; when Pope Francis declared that the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time would become the Sunday for the Word of God each year; he said, “the great challenge before us in life: to listen to Sacred Scripture and then to practice mercy”, he continued, “God’s Word, has the power to open our eyes and to enable us to renounce a stifling and barren individualism and instead to embark on a new path of sharing and solidarity.” May this Sunday be for us, a new beginning, where we commit to learning more about Jesus, form a more intimate relationship with Jesus and take Jesus out into the world by what we do and say.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
CCC 51-64: God’s plan of Revelation
CCC 1427-1433: inner, ongoing conversion
CCC 1886-1889: conversion and society
Please keep in your prayers this week
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those discerning a vocation and those considering coming into the Catholic Church.
- The innocent people caught up in wars and conflicts around the world, but especially those in Palestine, Israel, Ukraine and Russia.
- Those on pilgrimage or those planning a pilgrimage at this time.
- For the 11 families due to complete their Baptism preparation session On Sunday at St Bede’s.
- All those who proclaim the Word of God, especially those who do so in places where Christians are persecuted.