The readings from the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time are filled with challenges for us in the first month of 2021.
In the first reading, God comes to the prophet Jonah and tells him to go to Nineveh (an enemy nation) to preach conversion from their wickedness. Unexpectedly, Jonah refuses and sails toward another area. This is when the famous story of a terrible storm at sea occurs, and Jonah admits he’s running away from God, and takes blame for the storm. He is thrown overboard and is swallowed by a large fish. Praying hard, he is eventually spit out of the fish’s mouth onto dry land.
Again God comes to Jonah who this time obeys and converts the people of Nineveh. But again, the unexpected happens. Jonah is mad because his enemies listened to him and were converted.
Are we like Jonah who sometimes refuses to follow God’s way? Do we busy ourselves with what’s not important to avoid what we really should do? Do we hide away from others to do our own thing? But God truly is the God of the story of Jonah who keeps asking us to be faithful over and over again!
Are we sometimes angry with God because our prayers go unanswered? Are they truly authentic or just words? Are we angry because we’ve experienced hurtful experiences in our lives? An example of authentic prayer is the story of a young father who just experienced the death of his three year old son. Because of renovation in the parish offices he meets with a priest in church in order to plan the funeral. As he is talking with the priest he loses control and jumps up in front of the sanctuary and begins shouting at God. He curses and blames God for his son’s death. He screams about his hurt and how will he go on without his child. Thank God for a pastoral priest who eventually calms him down and then tells him that’s the best prayer he ever said. If we have a deep, intimate relationship with God we should be able to talk with God as we do a dear friend. We need to be honest as the young father was honest.
Last week we heard the story from the Gospel of John of the calling of Andrew and Peter to be Jesus’ first followers. The gospel story this Sunday is from the Gospel of Mark. Again, it is about calling his first followers but this time four are called. Jesus invites Andrew and Simon (Peter) to be fishers for people. Unexpectedly, they leave their boat and nets to follow Jesus. Shortly after Jesus sees the brothers James and John. They leave their father and their nets and immediately follow him.
Prior to calling his first followers Jesus proclaims his mission: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news.” Are we like the first
followers of Jesus, willing enough to leave our nets, whatever form they may take, and become faithful followers of Jesus? What do we have to leave behind that blocks our yes to Jesus’ invitation?
Paul tells us in 1Corinthians that the time is short. Each day we are one day closer to the day of our death. It’s foolish to think we have a huge amount of time to improve our lives, get closer to God, become a better neighbor to all we meet. We all know of young people who died suddenly. We have no guarantee that we will have a long life ahead of us. If we are already in our senior years, the proximity of death is far more real, but no less predictable. Unexpectedly, today is the day to make a change! Jesus makes that clear when he tells us to repent and believe in the good news.
We are three weeks into a new year. Resolutions come and go, and for many, mostly go. Take time NOW to make one resolution that will help you renew or deepen your relationship with God. What do you have to do or let go of for that to happen?
When have you ignored God’s call in your life?
In what ways can you renew of deepen your relationship with God?