Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jn. 3:1 – 5,10, 1 Cor. 7:29 – 31, Mk. 1:14 – 20
By Fr. Paul K.C. S.J.
The Central Theme of the Readings of today focuses on God, on things Above or on things Eternal. If the leading factors of our life are of the things mundane, we are blind to the ultimate realities of life. A prayer chant from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad leads us to a right direction of our life.
असतोमा सत् गमय:
तमसोमा ज्योतिर् गमय:
(O God, lead us from untruth to Truth; from darkness to Light and from death to Immortality.)
Similarly, in the Gospel of John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” And in the chapter 3:16 John says, “God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Now let us look at the readings proper for the third ordinary Sunday. The First reading from Jonah cautions us that our life and its ways always bear dire consequences. It is true in the life of an individual person as well as collectively in the case of a social unit or a nation as a whole. Do not tamper with the natural and Divine Law of life is the warning for all. In the second reading, St. Paul advises us to raise our minds to the things eternal. In Buddhist philosophy, Buddha speaks about ‘Anichha’ – everything is changing or nothing is permanent on earth. Similarly, Hinduism speaks about ‘Maya’ or illusion. Everything that we see and experience here on earth is an illusion. On the Ash Wednesday the priest imposes the ash on the forehead of the faithful and says, “Man you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” This ritual reminds us of the life after death. In other words, while we are here on earth we have to carefully endeavor for our eternal salvation in heaven. This is what Jonah preached to the Ninevehites. “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” (Jon.3:4) Their sinful ways necessarily called for destruction and death because sin is the cause of death. The people of Nineveh gave heed to the Divine warning and gave up their evil ways and did reparations for their sins. St. Paul in his letter advises us to stop worrying about our worldly cares and concerns and set our eyes on things eternal. Those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it because it is passing away. (1Cor.7:31)
It is for this purpose Jesus came on earth to teach us the way to the Father in heaven and to preach the Good News of salvation to all on earth. Therefore, Jesus says, “Go out to the whole world and preach the Good News to all creation.” (Mk.16:15) This is a Mission to all who have accepted Jesus as their personal God and Savior. This Mission is handed over to us down through the generations first by the Apostles who were specially chosen and appointed by the Lord. “He called to himself those whom he wanted … that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (Mk.3:13 – 15) Here we need to give attention to the words used in the above quotation. Jesus called to himself those he wanted … to be with him … to send out … to preach … to have authority to drive out demons. The message here is that every Christian is specially chosen by the Lord to be with him in order to learn from him and to acquire his nature, character and qualities. Thus one gets empowered by Jesus with authority and power to go out to teach, preach and heal the sick and to drive out demons from the afflicted and possessed. Thus Jesus makes the down trodden free from the clutches of the evil One. How can we remain with Jesus? By following his examples of prayer, penance and sacrifices and by participating in the sacraments faithfully with devotion and faith, we can remain with Jesus.
Jesus calls each one of us for a Mission to be fulfilled. What is my response? How do I respond? Notice the way the first Disciples responded. “…immediately they (Andrew and Simon) left their nets and followed him… immediately… they (James and John) left their father Zebedee and the boat with the hired servants and followed him.” (Mk. 1:18 – 20) The word ‘immediately’ shows their total surrender to the Lord. There is no calculations of pros and cons, right and wrong, gain and loss, etc. Here ‘I’ doesn’t exist but “He” alone matters. However, the moment we choose to be with Jesus, we are sure to encounter various kinds of difficulties, obstacles, problems and temptations. By our own might and power, we will be a total failure to overcome the attacks of the devil. But with God everything is possible. “I can do everything in Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13) Therefore everything that stands on our way to eternal salvation is done away with the grace of God, provided that we obey His Word and follow His Commands by being with him.