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Third Sunday of Ordinary Time B

January 24, 2021

Mark 1: 14-20

By Rev. John Tran

What are we to do when God calls us to his service? We are called to a way of life, like marriage, priesthood, or religious life. We are called to a career, a means to live out the way of life we choose. Can you remember the times that God has called to you to respond to him and his mission for you? When you hear the call; when you are attuned to it, marvelous things can happen.

Two responses to a call are presented to us this Sunday. The call by God of Jonah and the calls of Simon and Andrew, James and John. The way each one embraced or did not take up his call makes all the difference.

Jonah, as we know, was minding his own business when God asked him to be a prophet. Now that in itself might not have been to bad for Jonah to accept. But was difficult to accept, is that he was to bring God’s message to a people feared and hated by the people of Israel. God actually wanted Jonah to tell the Ninevites that if they did not repent and change their lives, they would all perish. And this would happen in 40 short days. Now to Jonah, it seemed absurd to give the Ninevites this message; it is so much the better for Israel if they were destroyed. We know how Jonah tried to hide from God and not be his prophet. In the end, Jonah did what was required of him, but grudgingly at best. When God heard the repentance of the Ninevites, Jonah was angry and depressed. He did not respond willingly to God’s call or rejoice in God’s mercy to a foreign people. Nothing wonderful happened for Jonah.

On the other hand the two sets of brother fishermen seemed only too eager to answer Jesus’ call to them. What was the response of the two sets of brothers? They asked no questions and immediately left their livelihood and followed Jesus. Were they ready for a change? Had the life everyone had assumed was theirs grown tedious and stale? Were they tired of the family business? Did they hear the voice of God in Jesus call? Who can say. But the point is whatever the immediate reason, perhaps their initial reason for following Jesus did not stay the same. It was the daily contact with him, his closeness to the Father, his compelling message, his healing. And finally, his willingness to suffer for us all, die, and rise to free us from sin and death. All of us; not just the Israelites, but all people. In all this the disciples rejoiced and took on the responsibility of bringing Jesus and his message to all. Wonderful things happened for the Apostles

First the brothers Andrew and Peter, then the brothers James and John were called: these two family units were the core of Jesus' first followers. Would they have had the courage as individuals to follow him? Did their brother's faith strengthen their own? Family is so often the seedbed of faith: the example of a life lived in faith is the greatest proof that it is both possible and desirable to follow Jesus. Close friends can provide that kind of living witness for us, as we can for them. Though faith has to be able to thrive in solitude, it is never a wholly private matter.

And what about us? How are we responding to the voice of the Lord as it comes to us? Is it as grudging as that of Jonah? Is it with the initial enthusiasm of the disciples? But they had to learn that the call came over and over again, each time in a different form. Still, the could embrace and rejoice in the end. Are we willing to explore new or different ways we live out our commitment? Our call may indeed be to leave our father, so to speak, to leave the familiar and be open to whatever God asks of us. This Sunday we pray that the Lord will awaken in us openness to what ever he is asking of us.

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