This Sunday the readings call us to consider the role of sin and repentance in our lives. Jonah reminds us of the effect that a call to repentance can have on people who are willing to listen to the call. The disciples in the Gospel are called to follow Jesus. Such a call to wholeheartedly follow the Lord is fundamentally a call to continual conversion and repentance. We are constantly being called to turn, more and more away from sin and more and more towards God. This was true in the first century and it is still true in the 21st century. Paul reminds us that the totality of our commitment must affect how we live. While often, the outward acts may not be much different than those of the society around us, our inner motives and purposes must be those of Christ.
First Reading: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” 3 So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD’S bidding. Now Nineveh was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” 5 when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.
10 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.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 3:3 After having refused to obey God before, this time Jonah goes to Nineveh apparently having realized that he can’t get away from God.
* 3:4 The Hebrew expression for “shall be destroyed” is probably intended to remind the reader of the “overthrowing” of the wicked cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, by a special act of God (Gen 18:21; 19:13, 25).
The city is described as being so large that it takes three days to go through it (Jonah 3:3). The city was legendary for both the enormity of its size and the enormity of its cruelty and violence. The greatness of the miracle is enhanced by the conversion having happened after Jonah had barely begun his preaching. The suddenness and totality of the conversion are contrasted against the barely begun half-hearted efforts of an unenthusiastic and reluctant prophet.
In Hebrew, the proclamation of Jonah is barely five words long and yet it achieves an incredible effect on the people.
In the scriptures forty is usually a symbolic number referring to a sufficient amount. It usually means as long as or as much as is necessary.
* 3:5 This verse expresses the total change that Nineveh underwent. The term that is translated as “believed God” is the same term used in key texts such as Gen 15:6 and Exod 14:31 where Abraham and the people of God respond with true faith in God. It refers to something far greater than simply believing the words of Jonah’s warning. Wearing sackcloth was an ancient sign of repentance.
* 3:10 St. Augustine wrote that Nineveh was indeed “overthrown. ” It was “overthrown in evil, but rebuilt in goodness.”
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31
29 I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, 30 those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, 31 those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 7:29-31 Paul believes that the world will pass away soon because Jesus is about to return and so he advises Christians to go about all the ordinary activities of life in a manner which is different from the rest of humanity who are totally immersed in those activities and are unaware of their transitory nature. Today, most of us are not expecting Jesus’ return to be imminent but the advice is still good because the world as we know it is passing away. Regardless of how much time is left before the return of Jesus, He will come and the world will pass away. For us the question must be: ” Is my life ordered toward the passing values of the world or is it ordered toward the everlasting values of Jesus?”
Gospel Reading: Mark 1: 14-20
14 After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 15 “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
16 As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. 19 He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. 20 Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
NOTES on Gospel:
*1:14 In Jesus, the Kingdom of God is near and that is Good News. The Rule of God is described in Ps 97:1-12 98:1-9 99:1-9.
* 1:15 The word, “Fulfilled,” expresses the continuity between the stages of God’s plan. The Kingdom of God is present when the will of God is done. In Jesus the will of God is lived out perfectly and so the Kingdom of God is always present in Him.
* 1:18 In abandoning their nets, the newly called disciples leave their old lives behind in a radical response to the call to repent and believe in the Good News. Repenting and believing the Good News is the same as following Jesus. It is still the way to follow Him today. Although not all are called to live it out in such a radical way, all are called to follow Jesus with the same radical degree of commitment.
* 1:19 Peter, James and John form the inner circle of Jesus’ followers. They form his special prayer team who go with Him into the house of Jarius (5:37), the mount of transfiguration (9:2), and in the Garden of Gethsemane (14:33). Gal 2:9 says that they were considered to be pillars of the church. </html