The readings of this Sunday focus on theme of calling and sending. In the gospel Jesus calls his first disciples whereas in the first reading God sends Jonas on a mission to Nineveh. It’s the case with us today as Christians; we are called and sent to witness the Good News of God’s kingdom in the world today. But what’s this Good News? And how do we announce it?
Bible readings Jonas 3: 1-5, 10 Psalm 25: 4-9 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31 Mark 1: 14-20
Let’s keep the liturgical thread
In last Sunday’s gospel (Jean 1: 35-42) we had another version regarding the first disciples of Jesus. And this Sunday we continue with the same theme of calling but from the gospel according to Mark. A question rings in my head, but these people Jesus is calling –what for?
To answer this question I choose to bring together the two gospels in order to make sense of the common thread that runs through the liturgy of these Sundays.
Is it the John the Baptist I know?
One thing I couldn’t miss in last Sunday’s gospel is the manner John the Baptist introduced Jesus to his disciples: “Here’s the Lamb of God.” I said wow, is it another John speaking?
We know John the Baptist, in his preaching he takes a hard line as he calls people to repent before the messiah comes. It’s a decisive event for the messiah will judge people, like a farmer separates grain from chaff; and while the grain will be stored in the barns the chaff will be emptied into unquenchable fire.
In the end, you remain with a horror image of a messiah, especially more of a merciless judge than a saviour. Moreover, you risk looking at overcoming sin as mere moral and personal determination. But when you look at the messiah as Lamb of God a lot of things change.
The messiah is not expecting to find pure and blameless persons; he comes to meet fragile persons like you and me. He’s coming to save, not to judge. It’s no longer the humans who are trying to save themselves by means of the blood of animals; it’s God who washes them clean –renders them beautiful. This loving mercy of God is free. And that’s the good news!
And so, the first thing for us is simply to open ourselves to welcome this mercy of God in our lives. And Jesus, the lamb of God, is the embodiment of this loving mercy of God. Those he’s calling as disciples have the mission of collaborating with him in witnessing this gratuitous love.
Boat and net to leave behind as disciples
Jesus calls fishermen to be his disciples. We can’t miss to take notice of their availability: at once they leave their nets and start following Jesus. They leave behind what they are well familiar with in order to learn something new –it takes a lot of trust. And you, as Christ’s disciple, what do you have to leave behind; your family and your profession?
Perhaps not! In fact, not only do you need the job to earn a living for your family but you need it also as field for fulfilling the mission of a disciple. Nevertheless, there’s still something you may need to leave behind. But what’s that?
From ghetto to encounter
Aren’t there times when we think of ourselves as Christians in terms of belonging to some in-group where we esteem ourselves as being better than others, especially those belonging to other denominations or religions? And puffed up with moral complacency we give a lesson to out-groups, threatening them of the catastrophe to befall on them if they don’t become like us. Unfortunately, I’m not exaggerating. Indeed, in the name of Christian zeal we harbour and proclaim messages that are simply un-gospel. This is one area where we would need to leave behind our boat and net, and allow Jesu to teach us a new trade –a trade of mercy and gratuitous love. We have the best illustration in the first reading.
Jonas and his ghetto mentality
Jonas is charged with a mission of announcing a message of repentance to Nineveh, in today’s Iraq. What insult to him!
Ninevites were traditional enemies of Israel. In the eyes of Israel Nineveh was a city of sinners destined for damnation. For those who bathed in the feeling of self-uprightness, represented by Jonas, it’s simply no use wasting time proposing a message of hope to a city of malefactors. That’s why, we know the story, Jonas resists going to Nineveh. And when he finally gets there he announces the message and waits to see God rain his wrath on Nineveh. But it doesn’t happen. The Ninevites welcome the message of repentance with open hearts –and nothing bad happens to them. Indeed, ours is a God who takes the trouble of bringing his loving mercy at doorpost of sinners, regardless of how damned they may appear in our eyes.
That’s the gospel to witness
God does not give up on anyone; rather, he brings the message of hope and love to every person in the situation of his life for he takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner but rather that he should turn from his sin and live (cf. Ez 33:11). That’s the message we are called to announce. However, before we can do that there may be nets and boats of our life we need to leave behind, such as our manner of thinking and acting –especially attitudes of judgment towards those deemed to be different from us. So each one can ask oneself:
What’s the Nineveh of my life?
Think of that person on whom you are giving up hope: your spouse, your child, your parent, your friend or your colleague. Your Nineveh is every person you consider as not deserving mercy and love.
As you struggle in your relationships with that person, Jesus is passing, through this word, inviting you to join him in being ambassadors of God’s unconditional love. The question is, are you willing to leave behind your net and boat of your attitudes in order to allow yourself be instructed in the spirit of Kingdom? There we realise that before we can speak about repentance to others, we need our conversion first.
This message strikes a right note especially during this week of prayer for unity of Christians. It invites us to come out from our ghettos and be Christians capable of encountering others, not with prejudices, but with the attitude of mutual respect. Then, we can walk together acknowledging that we have all benefited the gratuitous mercy and love of God.
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