Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Sunday, January 24, 2021
St. Anselm Church – Sudbury, MA
Readings Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20 :https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/012421.cfm
God has indeed chosen you, and chosen me! And we have been chosen for something special. The nitty gritty details may not always be clear, but the overall call is crystal clear: We’ve been chosen to follow Jesus and serve alongside him to build up God’s kingdom — of justice, of love and of peace for all people.
Our scriptures today will show a great sense of urgency in Jesus’ call, and an urgency for us to say yes and to follow him. For the Kingdom of God means fullness of life for all! How could we respond with: “that’s not for me,” or “not now Lord, maybe another time?”
For our tepidness, our reluctance, our unwillingness to give our hearts to God’s Kingdom of justice, love and peace, we ask for mercy and hearts made open to serve.
Lord Jesus, you announced the kingdom of God as a home for all peoples. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you call us to be co-workers with you to welcome, love and serve. Christ have mercy. Christ have mercy.
Lord Jesus, at your side you promise fullness of life and union with God forever. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.
Gloria: Glory to God in the highest…
Homily: Answering the Urgent Call
“I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out!” (1 Corinthians 7:29)
With these blunt words St. Paul addresses the community he was writing to. Could he be any more direct?!
Paul felt a deep urgency that they give of themselves 100% to the values of the Kingdom of God. He was basically saying,
Drop everything! Nothing is more important now!
We also heard the story of Jonah at a much earlier time, when God tried to enlist him in turning the hearts of a sinful people in Nineveh away from their sin and toward good..
You may recall, Jonah didn’t want to answer God’s call. He delayed. He found excuses. Eventually a whale swallowed him and delivered him to the shores near Nineveh, and that’s where we meet him in today’s passage….
He’d been convinced by this ordeal in the belly of the beast! God’s call was worth answering. So he preached, with the urgency God intended. He called the people to repent.
And, we are told, in just one day of preaching in that city, the King and all the people put on sackcloth — a sign of being humbled, a sign of having a contrite heart, and an act of penance and intention of reform.
So even if Jonah had not at first heard the urgency in God’s call, the people of Nineveh certainly did and urgently took action to put on in heart and in deed, God’s values.
How do you react to urgent calls?
The phone call of a charity before Christmas
The suffering of a neighbor with cancer
The request for help in a church project
The invitation to prayer that silence or circumstances make
The homeless person with outstretched hand on the street
The tears of a stranger with a broken heart
Do these urgent calls sort-of wash over you like water….
“Oh, that’s to bad” you think, but then life goes on. OR
“So sad,” and because you don’t want to be depressed, you recoil in escape to the TV or internet.
Do these urgent calls make you feel a little guilty for your relative well-being…
“I am so lucky” you may say, and so you write a check.
Or do you see yourselves unworthy or incapable of answering these urgent calls…
You say to yourself, “True, a real need, but I don’t have what it takes”or “That’s not for me”. And you leave the urgent call to be answered by someone else: the church, the school, the government, your neighbors, your kids, your parents. “It’s someone else’s job.”
Or do such calls of urgency, move your heart with compassion…
You recognize the urgency. You know God is calling.
And you respond the way Samuel did in last Sunday’s scripture,
when he realized God called to him urgently in the night:
“Speak Lord! Your servant is listening!” Samuel said in a loud voice (1 Samuel 3:10).
It is hard to answer an urgent call — let’s face it.
It took me several years of passing by the same homeless man on my way to the university every day, before I could stop and talk to him. Now he is my friend.
Surely he is afflicted by serious mental illness and many misfortunes stretching back to childhood. That one could surmise from afar.
In getting to know him, it turns out he is a man of wisdom and of faith. He knows his bible. He is awaiting the Kingdom of God.
We can be deaf to God’s call, or fail to answer when we hear it, for plenty of reasons:
- We don’t want our plans to be disrupted!
- We prioritize self first and others later
- Despite good intentions, we procrastinate and fail to actually do the good we intend
- We are just overwhelmed by life, feel alone and don’t really know what we should do. We spin our wheels and go in circles.
Whatever the reasons, remember what Jesus said about his call:
“my yoke is easy, my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)
Look at the passage we heard today, about the calling of Jesus’ first disciples.
Jesus spoke with urgency! They responded with urgency!
There they were — Andrew and Peter, James and John, who were fishermen — at their boats fixing their nets. They were working. They were tired from a night of fishing. This was their livelihood.
But Jesus came to them as they worked…
Now they had probably heard him recently preach, about the Kingdom of God.
So he was not a complete stranger,
yet just imagine how they may have felt:
We are simple fishermen, and he is a wise, Godly and charismatic teacher. Who are we to even speak to him?
Can you imagine how they may have felt shy or unworthy?
Yet he addressed them, “Come with me, and I will make you fish instead for people!” (Mark 1:17)
“Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:18)
They dropped everything and went with Jesus! — as yet, barely more than a stranger to them.
Not their own plan, for sure!
But they must have sensed it was God’s plan.
You might say, “easy for them, because it was Jesus!” It’s harder for me to tell when the urgent calls of my life are really from God.
Fair enough, but let’s just consider that he came preaching the Kingdom of God —
healing for the brokenhearted, justice for the oppressed,
forgiveness for sinners.
Do the urgent calls in your life have the marks of the Kingdom of God on them? For that surely is the ring of truth, the proof of their source.
Moreover, notice Jesus’ call is very do-able for his new disciples.
Jesus doesn’t give them detailed instructions and say
“Go do all this on your own. Good luck!”
No, he says “Come with me”.
Answering God’s call is about working with God.
It’s about companionship on a journey.
And see how Jesus appeals to these fishermen, in his very words:
“I will make you fish for people”.
See how this is a PROMISE that what they already have — wisdom, skills, experience — is exactly what they need to do this new thing Jesus is calling them to do?
Sisters & brothers, WE HAVE WHAT IT TAKES to answer Jesus’ urgent call. And we are PROMISED a companion in Jesus when we answer his call.
So don’t let procrastination, or self-will, or worry, or inadequacy or shyness keep you from hearing the call and responding with urgency.
The Kingdom of God is here, and our invitation is to follow Jesus to enter into it, to serve its values, to make it grow and include in its loving embrace ALL who in the world right now suffer what is NOT of God — poverty, division, illness, and injustice.
Jesus’ injunction, which he preached in Galilee, “Repent believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15), is as much collective as it is personal.
It’s an urgent call to, just like Andrew, Peter, James and John, join with Jesus — form a body of companions — who TOGETHER SERVE the Kingdom of God and letting it be realized right here, right now.
YOU have what it takes! WE have what it takes.
At St. Anselm, this is what we are about: To go on this Journey with Christ, to Welcome, Love and Serve.
We must see ourselves like those disciples whom Jesus called to follow him. You know, together with Jesus they did greater things than their dreams up til then ever contained. For they allowed themselves to be participants in a divine mission of redemption for a world in need.
There are numerous ways in this community WE are hearing Jesus’ call to serve. I can name some of them, and have been at every opportunity, but you can explore all of them by going on our website and clicking the “Get Involved” tab (https://stanselmsudbury.org/get-involved/).
You’ll see all the ways we are trying to
- deepen our companionship with Jesus and one another through prayer,
- how we can learn at the feet of Jesus our teacher, and
- what we are doing to serve our neighbors out of love.
May I boldly ask you this week to please visit our website, look at the GET INVOLVED section, and PRAY about how God’s urgent call strikes your ears and your heart today? (https://stanselmsudbury.org/get-involved/)
YOU have what it takes… WE have what it takes…
To SERVE alongside Jesus and welcome God’s Kingdom.