3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B—2018

FIRST READING Jonah 3:1-5, 10
The word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord’s bidding. Now Nineveh was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed, ” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.

SECOND READING 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.

GOSPEL Mark 1:14-20
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they left their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Repent! Here we are in Ordinary Time and it sounds like Lent! The beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ begins with Jesus calling His followers to repent. Repent in this context means to change the direction of one’s life. And we see with clarity where Jesus is pointing us: Believe in the Gospel!

The first reading today is the story of Jonah preaching repentance in the city of Nineveh. The preaching of Jonah was completely successful and the whole city repented including the rulers. Although Jonah did not want the city to repent but rather wanted it destroyed, we see that the people respond to Jonah’s preaching and God “repented” of the evil which He had planned.

We need to hold this in our hearts: the people repented and God also repented. Both were willing to change the direction of their intentions. We don’t normally think of God repenting but surely the repentance of God is part of the Gospel that Jesus is proclaiming. God’s only intention is our salvation and our good. Whenever God is presented as angry in the Scriptures, it is because God loves us and the hope is that God’s anger will bring us to repentance and then God Himself will repent. This probably is not the way that we think of God but we need to listen to God’s Scriptures and discover again God’s love for us.

The second reading is from the First Letter to the Corinthians. We are told in this small section that the world is passing away and that our actions must change. We must put all of our energy into seeking God and the ways of God.

Then we come to the Gospel of Saint Mark again. Jesus preaching the Gospel! So often we only think of the Gospel as the preaching about Jesus Christ. Even in the Old Testament we find the word “gospel” in the Greek translation and is usually translated as “good news.” What is the good news that Jesus preaches? It is this: believe that God loves us and sends His Son for our salvation! As always, if we won’t accept this Good News, nevertheless it is true. Our challenge is always to accept the Gospel given to us in Christ Jesus and to be so moved by it that we ourselves draw others to know the love and mercy of God.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip