O.T. III SUNDAY -B
Jonah 3: 1-5, 10,: 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31;Gospel: Mark 1: 14-20
There was this Christian lady that had to do a lot of traveling for her business, so she did a lot of flying. But flying made her nervous so she always took her Bible along with her to read and it helped relax her. One time she was sitting next to a man. When he saw her pull out her Bible he gave a little chuckle and went back to what he was doing.
After a while he turned to her and asked "You don't really believe all that stuff in there do you?" The lady replied "Of course I do! It is the Bible." He said "Well what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale?" She replied "Oh, Jonah. Yes I believe that; it is in the Bible. The Bible says Jonah was swallowed by a whale, and I believe it. And if it had said that Jonah had swallowed the whale, I would believe that too!" He asked "Well, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?"
The lady said "Well I don't really know. I guess when I get to heaven I will ask him." "What if he isn't in heaven?" the man asked sarcastically.
"Then you can ask him when you reach the hell," replied the lady.
The Book of Jonah was written in Palestine around the 5th century B.C. after the Babylonian exile. Some of the Jews were quite nationalistic, filled with a smug sense of their superiority over all other nations. Like Jonah, they wished God would destroy the nations they perceived as His enemies. For Jonah, the Ninevites were terrible people doing terrible things. The story of Jonah was intended to rebuke the Palestinians’ smallness of vision, and to teach them that God had care for other peoples besides themselves. At God’s second call to preach repentance in Nineveh, Jonah obeyed – and he was disappointed seeing the ready response of that evil city to God’s message of repentance and a change of life! Jonah had not even finished the first day of his preaching journey before the people had totally turned around – doing visible penance while asking and hoping for God’s love, reconciliation and forgiveness. But perhaps the greater change, the more radical turnabout, happened in Jonah himself. Jonah had been an arrogant, bigoted, narrow-minded prophet. But he finally realized that God’s love is not limited – God’s offer of salvation is for all – and we’d best not thwart it. So we should work on repentance on ourselves and invite others to repentance and the kingdom of God.
After proclaiming that "The Kingdom of God is at hand," Jesus adds, "repent and believe in the gospel." Repent, that was also the message Jonah also was sent to preach. The "Kingdom of God" refers to wherever things are done God's way, wherever his will and his loving heart are allowed to guide people's lives. To repent means to stop doing things our own selfish way, which is our default tendency ever since Adam and Eve poisoned human nature with original sin. And to believe in the gospel means to trust that God's way, God's will, is always the best choice. If we trust in the love, wisdom, and power of God, we will have the courage to fashion our lives according to his standards, the ones taught by the Bible and the Church.
Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, 'Follow Me, and, I will make you fishers of men.'" (Mark 1:16-17). That one statement tells us what our primary business is, both as a church corporately and as followers of Jesus individually. Every day Jesus wants fishermen disciples to launch out into the sea of humanity and go deep-soul fishing, because the church's primary business, the Christian's primary business, is the fishing business, and no matter what else we do nor how well we do it, if we ever get out of the fishing business, we are out of business. Our neighborhood is a lake full of fish. Our office is a lake full of fish. Our school is a lake full of fish. When Jesus said, "I will make you fishers of men,” He was saying, “I will take you, with your personality, your background, your testimony, your influence and I will use you to catch men and women and boys and girls and bring them into my family.”
The very first words of Jesus when he and Peter met at the waters was, "Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men." His very last words to Peter, again down at the waters of the Sea of Galilee, and after his resurrection, were, "Feed my sheep, Follow me." From beginning to end this is the mission of the Church.
The Lord Jesus came not only that we might put our faith in Him, but that we might go fishing with Him. You see, our problem is not that we have the wrong lake. The water is full of fish. The problem is not that we have the wrong bait. We have the gospel which can hook any fish. Our problem, I believe, is one of ignorance and apathy. There are many Christians who believe they do not know how to share the Lord Jesus, and then there are many who just don't want to go. (Rev. Maxie Dunnam)
How can we get this fishing business go prosperous ? Do we need to advertise it ?
About forty years ago there used to be an automobile named the Packard. Packard was the last car manufacturer to get into advertising, It didn't happen until old man Packard died, because whenever he was approached to buy some advertising for his cars he always said, "Don't need any; just ask the man who owns one." Our Lord Jesus Christ is also known through word-of-mouth advertising. That's how the word about him gets out. Only the Shepherds at the first Christmas heard the good news from angels. Only the Wise Men were led by a Star. Just a comparative few were touched by miracles. Almost everybody came to know Jesus Christ, and is still coming to know him, through word-of-mouth advertising, one person telling another. There are other names we use: preaching, witnessing, sharing, testifying, evangelizing. Basically, however, all it is by word-of-mouth advertising, one person telling another. Our Gospel lesson reminds us that John the Baptizer was one of the first to get the word out about Jesus.
One of the best ways for us to deepen our faith is by telling others about it. As Pope John Paul II wrote, "Faith is strengthened when it is given to others" (RM, #2). Christ's command to his Apostles in today's Gospel passage also applies to us: "Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." That's what Christians do, because that's what Christians are: messengers and ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador is not just a mouthpiece but should use his wisdom and practical judgment. But more than the word of mouth sharing, life sharing is the most powerful preaching.
One day St. Francis of Assisi, invited a young monk to join him on a
trip into town to preach. The young monk was so honored to get such an invitation from St. Francis that he quickly accepted. All day long he
and St. Francis walked through the streets and byways, alleys and
suburbs, and they rubbed shoulders with hundreds of people.
At the end of the day, the two headed back home, however, not even
once had St. Francis addressed a crowd, nor had he talked to anyone
about the gospel. The young monk was greatly disappointed, and he said to St. Francis, "I thought we were going into town to preach?" St.
Francis responded, "My son, we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We were seen by many and our behavior was closely watched. It is of no use to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk!"
Scripture tells us that we as believers “should be on duty at all times.” You never know when an opportunity will arise for you to share the gospel with someone. Opportunities to share the gospel often come when we least expect them.
Jesus calls us to be his ambassadors in the middle of our normal family and work life, redeeming the world from within, like leaven in the dough. But either way, he calls each one of us, he has something to say to each one of us, every single day.
When is the last time we looked for an opportunity to share the gospel? When is the last time we prayed for an unsaved person by name to come to Christ? When is the last time we personally brought a nonbeliever to church with us?
In all three readings at today's there is a sense of time running out. "Only forty more days…" shouted Jonah (1st reading). "Our time is growing short," wrote Paul (2nd reading). "The time is fulfilled," said Jesus (gospel reading).
Let’s realize that our time is running out, and so not postpone what we are called upon to do today. Let’s not be like Jonah who at first did not want his enemies be converted and be saved. Let’s appreciate the invaluable gift of salvation that is offered to us in Jesus and extend it to all around us.