1/18/2018 9:00:00 AM WORD OF FAITH Time to get down to business
BY REV. ANTHONY LIGATO
FROM A READING FOR JAN. 21, THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
'As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people"...' -- Mk. 1:16-17
It is time to get down to business. I am not saying that; Jesus is saying it to us all in the Gospel (Mk 1:14-20).
This Gospel passage follows Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the desert and His temptation by Satan. The time of preparation is over, and it is time to get down to business.
What is the business we should be occupying ourselves with? It is two parts:
announcing that the kingdom of God is at hand ("This is the time of fulfillment"); and
"Repent and believe in the Gospel."
It does not get much clearer than that. Getting down to business is our part of the continuation of God's plan of salvation. There is an urgency which is conveyed to us especially in Sunday's second reading (1 Cor 7:29-31): "I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out."
Then and now
What happened during the first century still happens today. People worry so much about how difficult it is to repent and live out the Good News of the Gospel that they never actually get down to business. They go to church and speak about Scripture and how the world seems to continue to be immersed in sin and self-destruction. But what are we doing about it?
St. Paul tells us the world is continually changing and our clinging to the things that are passing away means we are not ready for the coming of the Lord. That's what I mean by saying, "It is time to get down to business:" We need to let go. We need to repent and believe in the Gospel.
In the first reading (Jonah 3:1-5,10), Jonah finally accepts God's mission for him -- but not before he bitterly complained about that mission, which was to proclaim a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh. Jonah believed the Ninevites did not deserve the opportunity to repent. Jonah felt he knew better than God who should be given an opportunity to repent, so he ran and hid from God.
Jonah had to learn the importance of repentance in his own life before he could call others to repentance. His experience of running from God and from the challenges he faced created the opportunity for a change of heart. By the time he goes to Nineveh, he becomes a champion of the citizens of the city.
Jonah announces the message from God so well that the people have a total change of heart themselves, and the Scripture passage tells us God repents of His decision to destroy the city. God teaches Jonah the importance of repentance by changing His own mind. If our God can have a change of heart, how can we say it is impossible for us?
To truly get down to business means not only announcing that Jesus calls us to repentance and believe in the Gospel. It means we live it out in our own lives -- having a metanoia, a total change of heart. St. Paul implies in the second reading (1 Cor 7:29-31) that what previously governed us in our lives no longer has power over us: not sin or fear, not hatred or anger, not jealousy or resentment.
We live in the kingdom which is "already but not yet." Our lives become the announcement; by believing in the Gospels and living out the Good News, we become evangelists. We embrace the Jesus' call for us to serve, the same way God called Jonah to serve; the way St. Paul called the Corinthians and the way Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John to serve: with all their heart, trusting in God's Word, which had been given to them in truth.
Each of the aforementioned people who were called by God and Jesus were reluctant to get down to business but, ultimately, they did, once they decided to voice the words from Psalm 25: "Teach me your ways, o Lord." Once we can utter these words sincerely, the metanoia can begin, and we can get down to the business of a total change of heart.