CALLS AND RESPONSES
Jonah 3:1-5, 10;
1 Cor. 7:29-31;
God calls and man responds, ready to follow and obey – well, maybe not always! The readings today present calls from the Lord but contrasting responses – first, God’s call to the prophet Jonah, and then Jesus’ call to Simon and Andrew, James and John. Jonah was a most reluctant prophet. But the gospel gives us an example of instant obedience on the part of Jesus’ first followers.
All most people seem to know about Jonah is that he was swallowed by a “whale” (actually, it was a large fish). But the interesting part is why that happened to him in the first place. The Lord had called Jonah to warn Nineveh of impending destruction. However, Jonah ran away and booked passage on a ship to flee from the Lord. The Lord did not take kindly to this act of disobedience and sent a storm which threatened the ship and the crew. Jonah admitted that he was the reason for the problems they were experiencing, and asked the crew to pitch him overboard. It’s at this point that the large fish swallowed him.
After three days and three nights, the fish spewed Jonah out on the shore. Only then did Jonah obey and preach his message of warning, which – surprisingly – was heeded. “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.”
It is noteworthy how much “repentance” is mentioned in the Jonah story. After initially resisting God’s call and running away, Jonah repented and preached God’s warning to Nineveh. In response, the people of Nineveh repented, reformed their lives, and did acts of penance. In response to the Nineveh’s repentance, it is related that God “repented” and relented from the punishment he had threatened. In this account, we could say that God’s repentance was conditioned upon the repentance of Nineveh.
Today’s gospel has Jesus beginning his preaching ministry in Galilee after John the Baptist was arrested by Herod Antipas. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus preaches the same message that John had preached: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.”
As Jesus walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he sees Simon and Andrew casting their nets into the sea. Jesus calls them: “Come after me and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately followed him. Then Jesus called James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who also left their father in the boat with the hired servants. Quite a different response from that of Jonah!
The second reading today is a whole sermon capsulized in two verses: “Use this world as though you used it not, for the world as we know it is passing away.” Don’t get too attached. All is temporary, transitory, ephemeral. There is an old gospel song that says: “I don’t want to get adjusted to this world!” This world is not our home; we are just passing through. “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).
LIVE IN CONVERSION
Jonah preached a message of repentance and conversion, as did most of the Old Testament prophets. Both John the Baptist and Jesus started with that same theme, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” St. Peter preached repentance in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:38). In the Letters to the Churches in the Book of Revelation, five of the seven were told to repent. We must repent every day, and even several times a day. A good question to ask ourselves: What was God’s call to me today? How did I respond? Did I run away like Jonah, or run to follow Jesus as his early disciples did?