"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B) January 21, 2018

Jonah 3: 1-5, 10; Psalm 25; I Cor 7: 29-31; Mark 1: 14-20

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

Let’s not draw too much from today’s first reading to paint a luminous portrait of the prophet Jonah. If we just read today’s passage we might conclude that Jonah is an exemplary servant of God who responds instantly to God’s call. God gives him instructions to go preach in Nineveh and we read, "So, Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh." Not so fast.

Actually, this was the second time God called Jonah. The first time he heard God’s call he resisted and fled by boat. After all, Nineveh was an Assyrian city and they were the enemy who had conquered and oppressed Israel. While Jonah was attempting his escape at sea, God caused a storm that terrified the sailors. They threw Jonah into the sea, where he was swallowed by a large fish and, after three days, the fish dropped him ashore near, of all places, Nineveh. No escaping God’s will!

Today’s reading narrates the second time God sends Jonah to the Ninevites. He responded to the call, probably hoping God planned to destroy the city. That’s what Jonah wanted, but it’s not what God wanted. First the Assyrian king, and then all the people, repented and God spared the Ninevites.

Jonah was very upset by God’s mercy towards his enemies. He tells God, "I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish" (4:2). That’s our God! Jonah knew his God well and realized that God used him as an instrument of forgiveness and mercy. He went to great lengths to resist God’s first call and then expressed frustration with God when the Ninevites heard Jonah’s preaching and repented.

It’s not just that God forgave the sins of the pagan people. But more. God used a reluctant prophet to communicate mercy to a people the prophet despised. This small-minded person didn’t want to be God’s voice of forgiveness. But God used him anyway. Maybe, in Jonah, we might see a reflection of part of ourselves. We tend to classify certain individuals, or peoples, as outside God’s loving embrace. We can’t imagine God loving them with their faults and ungodly ways. What have they done to deserve God’s mercy? Nothing, we protest, but God offers it to them anyway.

What’s more, we might be the very ones God uses to reach out to them. Imagine that! The Jonah story shows to what lengths God will go to welcome home the sinner and outsider. Why, God might even want us to be God’s instruments! To whom is God sending us? Can we put aside our negative feelings for them and make the journey Jonah did to be instruments of God’s peace to them?

Jonah should have remembered God’s mercy. Hadn’t God chosen and showed mercy to Israel – who did nothing to deserve it? God was magnanimous towards the Israelites and so they were to be a "light to the Gentiles," to open their eyes to the merciful God of Israel.

A note in passing on the second reading from first Corinthians. All of chapter 7 is devoted to advice to the married and unmarried. It’s also a teaching about marriage and divorce to unbelievers. What might help us understand the reading is what Paul says in the opening verse, "I tell you brothers and sisters, the time is running out." He believed that the world was soon to end and that they were living in the last days. So, he advises the Christians not to worry about what is transitory. In the light of the impending end the only thing that counts is to serve the Lord. He says that this is his own opinion and not a command from the Lord, so he is not imposing it on all believers. Still, we can draw from Paul a sense of urgency as we respond to our call to turn to God and dedicate our lives to serving the kingdom. Being a Christian is a full-time vocation and should take priority in our lives. Which leads us to the gospel.

Unlike Jonah, who responded to God’s call reluctantly, the first disciples accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow him immediately. Before he invites his new followers, Jesus proclaims, "The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel." I must admit that the story of the call of the first four of Jesus’ followers is a bit unbelievable. The people of Jesus’ day were no less circumspect and hesitant than we moderns. Before dropping everything to follow Jesus why didn’t the four small business people first ask the questions I would have asked? Questions like: "Who are you? Where will we be going? How long are we going for? What do you mean by "fishers of people"? What kind of fishing will that be? What about our father Zebedee and our families, who will take care of them?" I could fill a page with just the first questions that would pop into my mind if Jesus said to me, "Come after me and I will make you fishers of people."

Indeed, in the course of my life, I probably have asked similar questions about Jesus’ call. In an ongoing attempt to respond wholeheartedly, I must admit I have held back. I will place that hesitancy and compromise at the altar today for healing and once again, with the community, invoke the Holy Spirit to come upon us and make us wholehearted disciples of Jesus.

The narrative begins with an ominous tone: John the Baptist has been arrested. The message is clear, God’s kingdom is coming and it will involve commitment and personal sacrifice. If John was arrested, Jesus’ disciples can expect similar treatment. It will cost these fishermen, and us, if they respond to Jesus’ call, "Come after me…." God’s reign of forgiveness, peace and justice has arrived with Jesus, but there will be much suffering by his disciples before it is fully established.

Jesus calls his hearers to, "Repent and believe in the gospel." In the original language "repentance" means more than asking forgiveness for this or that sin. It is a term that asks us to make a complete 180° turn, an about-face to God. It calls us, like the disciples, to leave our former ways behind and start a new life following Christ.

Haven’t we done that already? We were baptized and here we are worshiping in church as Jesus’ followers. But conversion is an ongoing process. We are reminded that we must continue in our conversion by many changes of heart and mind as we receive the Good News again and again. We live under the reign of God, whose coming Jesus announced, and who now sends us to share with others what we have heard and seen in Jesus – "The kingdom of God is at hand...turn 180 degrees in God’s direction."

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012118.cfm

QUOTABLE

Anyone who aspires to announce the Gospel needs, above all, to love the person to be evangelized, to know him or her with the heart and trust fully the power of the Gospel and the action of the Spirit, which invite the people of each culture to encounter salvation in their own way. We need to know how to approach people with respect and an attitude of listening and learning, to be stripped of the baggage of our own culture (without overestimating it) in order to avoid all ethnocentrism and colonialism; to use the language and symbolism of those to be evangelized, incorporating the specific values of the other culture.

--the General Chapter of the Dominican Friars, at Mexico City, 1992

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

As we begin this new year, it is decision-making time; for the world in its present form is passing away. During the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit (October 24-27, 1991) in Washington DC, delegates drafted and adopted the following 17 principles of Environmental Justice. Since then, these Principles have served as a defining document for the growing environmental justice movement.

Environmental Justice:

1.Affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species. . .

2.Demands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples. . .

3.Mandates the right to ethical, balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources. ..

4.Calls for universal protection from nuclear testing, extraction, production and disposal of hazardous wastes. . .

5.Affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self-determination of all peoples.

6.Demands the cessation of the production of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials. . .

7.Demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making. . .

8.Affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment. . .

9.Protects the right of victims of environmental injustice. . .

10.Considers governmental acts of environmental injustice a violation of international law. . .

11.Must recognize a special legal and natural relationship of Native Peoples to the U.S. government. . .

12.Affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature. . .

13.Calls for the strict enforcement of principles of informed consent. . .

14.Opposes the destructive operations of multi-national corporations.

15.Opposes military occupation, repression and exploitation of lands, peoples and cultures, and other life forms.

16.Calls for the education of present and future generations which emphasizes social and environmental issues. . .

17.Requires that we, as individuals. . .make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to insure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.

(To read the full Principles text, go to: http://www.ejnet.org/ej/principles.pdf)

To join Care for Creation Ministry: socialconcern@hnojnc.org

----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home

From today’s Gospel reading:.

As Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother casting their nets into the sea....

Jesus said to them, "Come after me and I will make you fishers of people."

Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.

Reflection:

We hear Jesus’ invitation, "Come follow me," each day, as life presents us with choices. Shall we forgive when asked? Shall we help someone in need? Shall we buy less for ourselves and give more to the poor? Shall we see the injustice or turn a blind eye? In these, and so many other occasions, we hear the same invitation Jesus made to those fishermen and, like them, we put other considerations aside to follow him.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What recent choices have I made that show my desire to follow Christ?

  • What changes do I have to make in my life to follow him more fully?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."

---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Edward Davis #0100579 (On death row since3/13/92)

  • Kenneth B. Rouse #0353186 (3/25/92)

  • Michael M. Reeves #0339314 (5/14/92)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory, 3150 Vince Hagan Drive, Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C

  • One combined CD for "Liturgical Years A, B and C."

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com http://www.PreacherExchange.comand clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

2. "Homilías Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: http://www.PreacherExchange.com/ - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.
 


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626