FIRST READING (The Ninevites turned from their evil way.)
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jonah (3:1-5, 10)
The word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord’s bidding. Now Nineveh was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9)
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord. (Ps 25:4a)
Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. (R)
Remember that your compassion, O Lord, and your love are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord. (R)
Good and upright is the Lord; thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice and teaches the humble his way. (R)
SECOND READING (The world in its present form is passing away.)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (7:29-31)
I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Mk 1:15)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel. (R)
GOSPEL (Repent and believe in the Gospel.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark (1:14-20)
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him. —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
God seems to choose the most unlikely people to proclaim the Good News! Today’s three readings underscore this perfectly. We first heard of the call of the prophet Jonah, who tried every way possible to run away or escape this invitation from God to proclaim God’s message to the people of Nineveh. In the first chapter of the Book of Jonah, Jonah tries to flee to the city of Tarshish (remember that name!), and while on the sea running away, God had him cast overboard in a storm, swallowed by a big fish, and eventually vomited up on dry land, and he finally obeyed and made his way to Nineveh. The second reading is about Paul, a tentmaker from Tarshish (hmm a coincidence?), who began his young life hunting down and torturing the followers of Jesus until God finally “knocked him off his horse!” Finally, in our Gospel we hear the story of the call of simple fishermen who knew a lot about bait and nets, but had no known skills in preaching, teaching, or leadership.
God seems to choose the most unlikely people to proclaim the Good News and he has not changed his pattern even today.
The Gospel is lived and taught by many faithful school teachers who spend their days teaching, reading, writing, and caring for children and teenagers; by finance workers who spend the day pouring over financial and stock reports; by helpers and caretakers who devote their days to caring for people not of their family, caring for others’ homes, children and even pets as if they were their own. They perform very menial labour with a sense of love and dedication most do not even notice. The gospel is lived by doctors and nurses in the medical field who care for the sick and dying. The gospel is lived by cooks and wait staff in restaurants, tea houses, and dim sum stands, by workers in market places and supermarkets; by sports coaches with their teams; by clerks in government offices spending their days responding to requests for certificates, files and forms; by lawyers and accountants, my firefighters and police who risk their lives protecting us; this list goes on and on…
All of these people – as people of faith – live and teach the gospel while deeply engrossed in their daily work – so much so that they may not even give the gospel they are living a second thought. But it is seen in their sense of dignity, their loyalty, their duty, their compassion, their small kindnesses.
The message in our first reading and the Gospel is also important for us all: REPENT! REFORM YOUR LIVES! BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL! We are urged to do this now, today! Don’t put it off to another time. We are encouraged to forgive one another and not take advantage of others. Forgive those who have offended us, and learn to be compassionate and share what we have with the less fortunate. We are called to be sensitive to the limits of earth’s natural resources, and BELIEVE IN THE GOOD NEWS.
There is an urgency to this message, as St. Paul reminds the Corinthians, that “the time is running short”; and Jesus declares that “the Kingdom of God is at hand!” Both Paul and Jesus are referring to the new age that is to come, the time of fulfillment. Their words imply that this new age is about to dawn.
The challenge before us today is sobering. Jonah was directed by God to deliver a message of Salvation to the Ninevites, a nation considered an enemy to the Israelites. They were a people known for their brutality. No wonder Jonah tried to flee! But when he finally obeyed God and preached God’s message, to his shock, the people repented.
Paul exhorts us to live in this world as if we are not of the world – a strange turn of phrase. What does this mean? What is God expecting of us? Certainly, Paul is not condemning human life or the world in which we live. Rather, he is saying that there is more to life than weeping or rejoicing, or buying or using. We are called not to live merely in order to derive pleasure and satisfaction for ourselves. Rather, we are called to be concerned with the well-being of others. We are called to live in opposition to the pleasure-seeking standards of society. Who can do that? Who wants to do that?
And the theme of fish found in the first reading reappears also in the Gospel. The difference, of course, is that Jonah did not catch a fish – he was caught by one. The four disciples in the Gospel were already fishermen, but they were told that there are bigger fish to catch. If they followed the invitation of Jesus “FOLLOW ME!” – they would have a great fish story to tell later. So, “they abandoned their nets and FOLLOWED HIM.” And they found new joy. They found men and women willing to be transformed.
There are such people today as well. We have heard of soldiers who place themselves in harms way to protect civilians caught in the terrors of war. We have watched emergency personnel disregard their own safety and rush into fires or in the midst of dangerous accidents to save others. We know of parents and grandparents who deny themselves simple pleasures and comforts in order to provide for their children and grandchildren. Heroic actions often stem from doing what simply has to be done, despite any difficulty, and we all know people who act this way.
So if we can learn to act out of compassion rather than indifference, out of understanding rather than disdain, out of kindness rather than selfishness, we will indeed bring about the fulness of the Kingdom of God. “FOLLOW ME!”
Celebrant: We have heard the word of God proclaimed to us. He sees our sincere efforts to lead good lives and once again filled with faith and hope we ask for his help.
READER: That the WORD OF GOD fill the Church with courage to fearlessly call people to repentance and belief in the Good News, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That like the citizens of Nineveh, people of all nations will believe in God and renounce their evil behavior, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That men and women will hear the CALL of Christ and follow Him as missionaries and become true ‘fishers of people,’ (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That in this difficult and passing world we will hold true to the eternal truths of the Good News of Christ and His Church, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all of our sick, and for our dear ones who have passed away, that they may receive their heavenly reward, where Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Majesty of the Father, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Father, hear the prayers of your people. Do not look on our sinful ways, but show us your gentle mercy and compassion. We ask this through Christ our Lord. (all) AMEN.