SUNDAY, THIRD WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
First Reading: Jon 3:1-5, 10 This relates how the preaching of the reluctant Jonah meets with an immediate response in the pagan city of Nineveh.
Second Reading: 1 Cor 7:29-31 Paul asks for an attitude of detachment from the dear, familiar things which tend to absorb us completely.
Gospel: Mk 1:14-20 Jesus begins to preach and he calls his first disciples.
REPENTANCE: A CALL TO SEEK GOD’S MERCY
The liturgy of today invites us to a life of repentance. Jesus began his ministry calling his followers to repent. In this context, repentance means changing the direction of one’s life, i.e. turning away from sin and dedicating oneself to the amendment of one’s life that leads to reconciliation and reunion with the Lord. Thus, Jesus is calling people to turn from their sinful habits and attitudes, and follow him.
When we repent our sins are forgiven, and that brings us closer to our Jesus Christ. It is a journey towards joy. There are three common elements of repentance we see in Scripture.
- The first is the recognition of sin. We must recognize that we have offended God. Repentance is not a way of wiping away feelings of regret over something that we have done. It is a fruit of genuine self-evaluation before the mirror of the life of Christ. The worth of one’s repentance depends on the strength of one’s desire to grow in the love of the Lord.
- The moment we recognize that we have sinned, we need to acknowledge and confess it before the Lord in humility. This is the second element. Accepting that we are in the wrong or that we have done something wrong is often the hardest thing to do. Excuses abound and justifications multiply. Our repentance should not be self-protecting. It is done neither for the sake of clearing stains from the ‘holy’ image we have of ourselves, nor for currying favour with God. It should be an authentic sorrow for going against the love of the Lord. Only then does it lead to the third element – the journey back into the life of grace.
- After recognition and sincere confession, there comes the determined resolve. We must begin the task of working on our lives, striving to free ourselves from the sins that are bound to us, to gradually throw off the burden of repeated and habitual failures, to isolate and avoid the occasions of temptation. The gospels give us numerous examples of those who undertook this journey – the prodigal son, the penitent thief, and Peter. Repentance finds its completion in actions that bear fruits of grace. It is only then that we enter into the rest that the Lord promises, inspite of our fragility. For he said, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28-30). True repentance brings healing of mind, body and soul. If our carelessness leads us into sin, our repentance leads us to be more careful and diligent about our behaviour before God.
Prophet Jonah was called to proclaim the message to a people he did not care for. He tried unsuccessfully to run away from this divine call. Finally, with great reluctance, he went to Nineveh where he delivered the shortest sermon – a nineword threat of destruction to only half on the city and with no desire to encourage them towards conversion. Yet, his half-hearted, disinterested, apathetic prophetic ministry was effective. It is Jonah, a sinner himself, who had to learn that mercy is for everyone who repents. It is often we, who need mercy the most, that fail to show mercy. If Jonah ran away from the call of God, the four fishermen ran towards he who called, eager to be fishers of men. They leave their secure life behind for an uncertain future. These fishermen teach us two things – the level of trust that should accompany our repentance, an unconditional and total surrender to the mercy of God, and the eagerness to be ‘fishers of men’, i.e. a thirst for sharing the mercy that is received.
God calls all of us to share in his mission of saving the world. As we seek his mercy through sincere repentance, we are also called to encourage repentance in others, and to be apostles of his mercy. Thus, as we ourselves journey towards reconciliation and union with the Lord, we take others along, so that one day we may all share in the communion of saints through the forgiveness of sins.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 25: 4-9 O Lord, make me know your ways.
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