Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: LISTENING TO GOD BRINGS CHANGE
By: Rev. Fr. Utazi Prince Marie Benignus
Homily for Sunday January 24 2021
Jonah 3: 1-5, 10; Psalm 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Corinthians 7: 29-30; Mark 1: 14-20
I pray for you: May you continue your journey toward God and may you seek the guidance from the Holy Spirit.
The readings of today speak about a time of change, a re-orientation of life. Today is the seventh day of the Octave of week of Christian unity. It ends on January 25, the feast of the conversion of St Paul. How much have you contributed to the unity of Christians? Where have we abandoned the brotherly love as Christians? I remembered that in the olden days, seeing a brother or sister in Christ is like one being in heaven already. This is because the meeting of the two or three is an event or encounter filled with Joy. Now, what is happening? Do not destroy the Church of God. God is pleading with you.
Now to the homily of today. Is God your target? Is making heaven your target? We must be willing to spend the time practicing the spiritual disciplines, know where (or Who) our target is, and make adjustments so that we can be right “on target.”
Jonah preaches to the sinful people of Nineveh; they believe God’s words announced by Jonah; and they repent. The story of Jonah begins with Jonah seeking to flee from doing God’s will (chapter 1 and 2). He set sail away from Nineveh. After a terrible storm, which Jonah knows is a result of his sinfulness; Jonah is thrown overboard and is swallowed by a huge sea creature. After his journey in the giant “fish,” Jonah turns to doing God’s will by announcing the destruction of Nineveh, near the present day Iraqi city of Mosul. When the people hear God’s word as announced by Jonah, they believe and turn their hearts to God (metanoia – repent) and seek God’s forgiveness. They reform their lives in the hope that God may not carry out the destruction planned. God also repents that is, turns the divine heart around and does not destroy the town because they believed and repented (that is, turned their hearts around, re-oriented their lives). Saying that God repented does not mean that God sinned, NO. It means that God changed the reward who was to give the Ninevites to another reward.
The Responsorial Psalm is a prayer asking God to show the right way for the believer to follow. Like Jonah, the psalmist asks to be shown the right path, instead of running away to escape from doing God’s will. Just as Jonah finally learned, the psalmist realizes that *God does show sinners the way to repentance.*
In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul urges the believers in Corinth to live a different life, a life not attached to their former, worldly ways. Writing to the people of Corinth, St. Paul urges them to act as if the Lord Jesus would be returning momentarily. At this point in Paul’s missionary life, he believes the end of the world and the return of the Lord Jesus was coming soon, very soon. Thus he suggests that the believers act as if the end of the world as they knew it was happening right now. He wants them to live lives which are detached from the worldly ways. He asks that they let go of all their old habits and ways of life and focus only on the coming Reign of the Lord Jesus.
In the Gospel, Jesus begins His ministry by announcing the coming of God’s Kingdom and the need for belief and repentance. He also calls His first disciples, who drop everything and follow Him. The Gospel has two points: (1) Jesus’ announcing the Kingdom of God with the need to believe and repent, and (2) Jesus’ calling His first disciples. The Good News of God’s Kingdom and the repentance associated with it are different from John the Baptist’s cry for a symbolic baptism of repentance. This is because Jesus adds the importance of belief. One must believe that God has established the God’s Kingdom now through the ministry of Jesus. This leads to true repentance and forgiveness of sin. The call of Peter and Andrew, James and John is important also. Jesus asks that these first disciples drop their fishing nets (their means of earthly livelihood) and come after Him. They will be doing an entirely different sort of gathering, gathering not fish, but gathering people who are to be a part of God’s kingdom.
Dear Sisters and Brothers, belief, being part of God’s kingdom, and having a relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, require changes in one’s life. One cannot simply say, “I believe in Jesus” and continue to live a life that is attached to world of sin. Mbaanu. It’s impossible. Those who want to be part of God’s kingdom must be willing to drop everything, I say, EVERYTHING and turn fully to the Lord Jesus and follow. The change must be as dramatic as that of the Ninevites or Peter and Andrew, James and John, or the Corinthian believers. Part of the change is through repentance (metanoia) – a change of heart, a re-orientation of one’s life. Surely, some people have lived their lives in opposition to God’s plan, that is, they are going against or away from God, just as Jonah did in the first chapters of the book with his name. For those who are going against or away from God, metanoia or repentance requires a complete 180̊ turn from the direction they were going. They need to turn their hearts toward God. For others, the orientation for most of their lives, or at least the last part of their lives has already been ad Deum (that is towards God). Yet, being human, there is always a need to be more on target as one aims toward God. I recall one of the words for sin. It can be translated as “missing the mark.” There are two ways to miss the mark. One is to know where the mark (target, that is God) is and to purposely shoot the other direction. That is a-theos, that is, going against God, that is, mortal sin. This sin leads to “death” in one’s relationship with God. This sin can still be overcome if one re-orients oneself by 180̊ and turns one’s heart fully to God. The other type of missing the mark (sin) is when we have the desire and purpose of hitting the target, but because of our weakness, poor calculations, or misunderstanding, we do not make the bull’s-eye on the target. We miss the mark. That is venial sin. We must examine why we miss the mark, try to correct the errors of our ways, and shoot again, aiming for our target, who is God.
On the other hand, one way to have a better chance to hit the target, who is God, is to move closer to the target. The closer we come to the target, the easier it is to hit the target. Thus if we seek to develop our relationship with God (draw closer to the target), the easier it will be for us to be right on target. We must seek to keep our eyes focused on the target, on God. It will mean that we have to drop any aspects of our lives that distract us from our aim. If we are burdened by carrying a heavy, worldly load, it will be harder for us to hit our target. We must be willing to abandon our old way of operating in order to operate in a way that reflects that we are part of God’s kingdom. We cannot do this on our own. We must turn to the Lord Jesus and ask for guidance and direction. More especially, we must make God’s word our companion. Your word is a lamp for my steps and a light for my path. Ps 118 (119): 105
*MEDITATION* What is my orientation right now? Am I oriented in a direction diametrically opposite to God? Am I generally heading in the right direction but need some correction to be more “on target” with God? What aspects of my life need to be released so that I can draw ever closer to the Lord Jesus? How can I help announce the kingdom of God to others?
*PRAYERS* Lord God, through the ongoing power of Your Holy Spirit, help us to stay focused on You and to let go of anything that hinders us in the pursuit of having You as the aim of our lives. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
*O DIVINE WORD WHO TOOK FLESH FOR HUMAN SAKE, REDEEM US IN OUR SITUATIONS*
©️ Rev. Fr. Utazi Prince Marie Benignus