3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

First Reading: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 25
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Gospel: Mark 1:14-20

Subject: Take Jesus Seriously

We just heard Jesus say to each one of us, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the Good News.” On that, we begin with a question; do I take Jesus seriously? That is a question we should ask ourselves often, daily even. Do I take Jesus seriously? Do I take what He said seriously? And therefore, do I take my Christian faith seriously? Our answer to the question is given by the way we live our life, and the day to day decisions we make throughout our life.

In the original Greek text of Mark, the word “repent” translated into English is “metanoia”. The literal translation into English of metanoia is actually “change of mind”. To repent is to change one’s life. It is a turning away from sin, and turning towards God. Jesus’s call for us to “repent” is a call to change our life; to change how we think, which will change what we say, what we do.

In the second reading, St. Paul is telling us to change our way of seeing things, of doing things, ultimately we are to change the priorities of our life so that our focus isn’t limited to the here and now, but to our final end. Where are our priorities? This will help lead us to truthfully answer our primary question, do I take Jesus seriously? Is the way I live my life, my priorities, centered on this world and this life only? Is it all about relationships with people, popularity and esteem of others, finances, career and positions and advancements, acclaim, possessions, vacation destinations, retirement nest egg? Following one passion, one fad, one pleasure after another? If we place our goals, our values, our life’s asperations on these things of the world, we are not on track to truly listen to Jesus, and not taking what He has to tell us seriously.

In the first reading we hear about a city where the people are living worldly-centered and therefore Godless lives filled with sin. Jonah is sent by God to tell them, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” In other words, in forty days they will be destroyed because of their sins. That is what sin does; it leads to our downfall, our destruction… to eternal death of Hell. Yet, that isn’t what God wants for us. It wasn’t what God wanted for the people of Nineveh, which was why He sent Jonah to them, to give them a chance to repent, to change their lives, before it was too late. When they were warned, those people took God seriously. They “believed God” and repented. When they changed their lives (metanoia) “God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways” and had mercy on them. In these last days (see Hebrews 1:1-3), God the Father has sent not just another prophet, but His Eternal Son, Jesus. He is sent not to the people of just one village, or town, or city. Jesus was sent by the Father to all of humanity, that through Jesus all might be saved (see John 3:16). Now is the time for the Kingdom, so repent, change your life, and believe the Good News: live the Good News!

If we want any part of the “kingdom of God” that Jesus brings and opens the way to, that is Jesus: which will be fully realized and lived for all eternity in Heaven… we must take His call to repent, to change our lives, seriously; like the people of Nineveh took Jonah’s words seriously, “and see something greater than Jonah is here” (see Matthew 12:21).

The people of Nineveh were given forty days. Saint Paul is giving us a heads up that we too are on the clock, “the appointed time has grown short […] the present form of this world is passing away.” You are not guaranteed tomorrow, or forty more days, or forty more years. You are given now, so now is when you need to respond. Now is the time to change, to repent, to take what Jesus says seriously while there is still time left, while you are still alive and able to change.

This means you need to look through your past right up to our present, and acknowledge your sins, regret your sins, and repent (change our life, turn things around). Then confess your sins, and move forward renewed by Jesus, by His mercy; with a renewed outlook on life, with new Jesus centered priorities for your life that will influence what you do, what you say, and how you are to your very core; thus being an authentic follower of Jesus, which is what being a Christian is all about, truly a person who takes what Jesus says seriously.

This Sunday’s Psalm is a great guide for us, to help us strive for and live with sincerity what Jesus desires for us:

“Lord, make me know your ways, O Lord teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation.”
Jesus, help me to know your Heart, what is pleasing to you, and what is not of you; so that my heart may become one with your heart.

“Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been of old.”
Jesus, for all the times I acted in a way contrary to your Heart, I am sorry. I trust in and rely on your Eternal mercy. Thank you for the gift of Confession!

“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble and what is right and teaches the humble his way”
Jesus, the Good Shepherd; as with the people of Nineveh, you want my salvation not my distraction, and your teachings lead me back to The Father. Keep me humble, and ever attentive to your Words of Eternal Life.

Our Lady of Fatima; pray for us!

Fr. Jason Piper
January 24, 2021

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 3: 3b-10, 19
Psalm 40
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20
Gospel: John 1:35-42

Subject: Following Your Personal Vocation

In both the first reading and gospel, we have people (Samuel and Peter) being called by God, called to their vocation. Although they are called, each to his unique vocation (Samuel would become a very important prophet, Peter would become one of the twelve Apostles and the first Pope) yet from these readings we learn how God calls many people, each to their own unique vocation.

We may think it is out of the extraordinary and spectacular moments when God calls, with power and awe, which God can do so if He chooses. Yet, the Bible shows us that generally God acts in gentle and humble ways. Here we see two examples of God calling; in the simple ordinary and everyday happenings of life. Samuel while he is trying to get some sleep. Peter, although not specifically mentioned in this Sunday’s gospel reading, it was while he was at work fishing. Out of the ordinary, God calls to extraordinary things. Out of simplicity, greatness is manifested. We can learn from this! We do not need to be doing great things to be called to greatness.

Some might think they don’t amount to much, that they are not of great value or importance because they aren’t doing great worldly things. Yet that is not true. Through Jesus and with Jesus we are all called to greatness; God’s greatness, not the World’s empty view of greatness. Being called to greatness doesn’t necessarily mean doing great things for all to see. For Samuel and Peter, it happens that was the case for them. Yet for the vast majority we are called out of the ordinary to greatness in hidden ways.

Take Saint Joseph as our example when it comes to being called to greatness yet in a hidden way. Saint Joseph’s vocation was massive: husband of Mary, foster father and guardian of Jesus. Yet, when people referred to St. Joseph, it was as the carpenter. Known by the public only for his simple job; known to God as the chaste spouse of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin, and entrusted guardian of the King of kings and Saviour of humanity! God has in mind a vocation for us, a specific calling for each life. Be assured that this calling, which God generally manifests out of the ordinary everyday things of life, is to greatness; be it in a public way for a few, or in a hidden way for most.

What else can we learn from Samuel and Peter? Well, through Samuel and Peter’s calling, of great importance to note, is that God used others to help reach and direct them. The young Samuel didn’t know God yet. It took the old prophet, Eli, who knew God, to help guide Samuel in his response to God’s calling. For Peter, it took his brother, Andrew to make the connection. Look at the Sunday gospel reading: John the Baptist says to Andrew, “look here is the Lamb of God.” Andrew follows Jesus, talks to Jesus, stays the day with Jesus; and his life is completely changed. He finds his bother, and tells Peter about Jesus. Then Andrew makes the introduction, and at Peter’s encounter with Jesus, his life is completely changed! Yes, to some God will call directly, like Jeremiah’s calling when “the word of the Lord came to me” (Jeremiah 1:4), however, for most we generally see that God calls them through various exterior ways, usually through people, as the case for Samuel and Peter (and also for Andrew through John the Baptist’s guidance). When discerning our vocation, God’s design for our life, it is a good idea to seek out the guidance of someone who is experienced, like Eli and Andrew; who can help guide us to the Lord, recognize God’s action in our life, and help connect the dots.

Sometimes, when considering what God is calling us to, we can feel overwhelmed, not up to the task. Samuel was young, had no experience, but that didn’t matter to God. The Lord will provide what we need to fulfill what He calls us to. Peter was a fisherman, which didn’t qualify him for the job requirements of being the first Pope, doesn’t matter. Not from our own skill or ability, but from the Lord, only by God can we do what we are called to. Some might feel unworthy, sinners that we all are. In the Gospel according to Luke we read that Peter “fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'” He is right to do so, those who feel unworthy are right to feel that way. We are unworthy of Jesus! Yet Jesus calls us, through His blood (bought with a price, as Paul says in the second reading). It’s not what we do, but what Jesus does, that we are made worthy. Regardless of our abilities or our failings, with humility like Peter on our knees, and with simplicity like Samuel saying, “speak, your servant is listening” we trust that whatever God calls us to, we can respond to it, and fulfill it. God does not just call us to something and sends us off empty-handed. He provides what is needed so that we will succeed in our vocation.

Both Samuel’s and Peter’s responses brings us to the next point to consider: they talk to God! When considering what God calls us to, in following God’s call, there is a need for listening, and dialogue. As God calls Samuel, he is invited to respond. Eli tells him, “if he calls you, you shall say…” When Andrew goes to see Jesus, there is an exchange:
“what are you looking for?”
“Where are you staying?”
“Come and see!”
With Peter, Jesus looks at him, and says, “you will be called Cephas.” We are to be attentive to the Lord’s calling, His speaking to us. How exactly? By prayer! Spending time with Jesus in prayer, everyday. We can do this by simply being in His presence and watching him, like Andrew, who spent the day with Jesus. We can do this by speaking to the Lord, like Samuel; ‘talk to me Jesus, I’m listening to you. What do you desire for me?’ When we pray we sit with God, we watch, we listen. To follow God, and His plans for our life we need to spend plenty of time in prayer, echoing daily today’s Psalm, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.”

Turning to the second reading, Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, I’d like to focus on one last point from the day’s readings, when it comes to our vocation and following God’s plan for our life; giving all our life to God in service of faithfully following our vocation. When we follow God’s plan for our life, it means we are following God, and all that God has designed and desires for humanity in our universal vocation of being God the Father’s children through our Baptism. This means that we are to be faithful to all God’s commandments, to live a Godly life, to be Christians through and through.

The world calls us too, but that worldly call is one that contradicts God’s plan for humanity, and therefore is problematic towards following our universal vocation as children of God, and the personal vocation to what God has specifically planned for each of our lives. In the second reading, Paul, mentions fornication. It is not meant for the body, the body is for the Lord. He tells us to “shun fornication!” This is a great reminder that our purpose, our reason for being is tied to God. This is why we are to seek out and follow God’s plan for our life. Yet, many use their life, use their body, in a way that gets in the way and stops us from following what we were made for, what God has planned for us. Our priority as Christians is to be placed of the things of heaven, on God. Not on things of the world, on ourselves. We are to seek God, not seeking self. Paul reminds us, we are not our own, we are God’s. The price we’ve been bought with, is Jesus’ blood, which we’ve been bathed in at our baptism. All that we have, all that we are, comes from God. And God calls us to give all that we have, all that we are back to Him, as we follow His plan for our life. This means removing sinful behavior and lifestyles of the world from our life. In doing so, we learn from Samuel and Peter, we listen to Paul; and in fulfilling our life’s calling, our vocation… We will glorify God with our body, our life, our entire being.

Yes, Lord speak, your servant is listening!

Our Lady of Fatima; pray for us!

Fr. Jason Piper
January 17, 2021