Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deacon Blaine Barclay

January 21, 2018

The basic pattern of the life of faith is ’Call and Response’.  Each one of us is called, both at the deepest level of our humanity, but also within the living stream of scripture and tradition.  We heard this call last week in the story of the prophet Samuel, who has a young person struggles to discern the call of God in the midst of all the other voices in their life.  We heard it also in the invitation of Jesus to, ’come and see’.  To be where he is, to live where he lives, to share his way of life, to allow our lives to be displaced by the priorities of Jesus.

We hear this same pattern of ’call and response’ in todays readings.  Jesus begins his public ministry with the urgent proclamation; ’’the kingdom of God has come near’’, the Reign of God is even now breaking in upon you, bursting in on the horizon, shattering ’the present form of this world’, as our second reading says.  The whole of Mark’s gospel is saturated with a sense of urgency, with the sudden immediacy of the dynamite that is the person and message of Jesus. The word ’immediately’ is found 40 times in the short gospel of Mark.  For Mark, the time of salvation is now, the future is now, pressing in upon our lives, not as dreaded judgment, but as ’good news’, ’gospel’, ’glad tidings’, salvation.

According to Jesus, what should our response be to this immediate in-breaking of the kingdom? ’’Repent and believe in the good news’’. ’Believing in’ is not just assent to a theoretical construct, a worldview with a certain way of framing things.  It is also commitment to the practice of conversion of lifestyle.  This is why Jesus says, ’’Repent and believe in the good news’’, of the kingdom of God.  If I don’t repent then do I really believe the good news?  Perhaps I haven’t really experience the person and message of Jesus as good news for me.

Sometimes we actually associate the practice of religion with ’bad news’, a bunch of obligations and restrictions that fence us in, not liberation. Jesus says it is ’good news’.  Jesus is good news.  The Catholic faith is good news. Repentance and believing in are the way to enter into this good news.  Repentance is not just sackcloth and ashes, it is the path to a joy filled life.  Would any of us repent if it was only a path of sadness and ’woe is me’, and consciousness of our sin?  Repentance is our response to the ’good news’, that we have been healed, restored, forgiven in Christ.  That we are always already loved without measure.  We don’t earn this love with our repentance we repent as response to the call of this love.

How do these first disciples respond to the call to repentance, to believing in the good news?  So radical is their conviction that the call of Jesus is good news, that they leave their old life behind.  All things have become new, the old way of doing things has passed away.  The absolute future that is the kingdom has already arrived in the person of Jesus.  From now on the human adventure is the following of Christ, being apprenticed to him, the tasks and disciplines of discipleship.  ’’Immediately they left their nets and followed him,’’ it says of Peter and Andrew. ’’Immediately they left their father Zebedee and followed him’, it says of John and James.  Previous relationships and livelihood are transfigured in the following of Christ.

St. Paul in our second reading outlines for us the radicalness of the transformation that is called for in our lives.  With the same urgency of the gospel of Mark, St. Paul says, ’’the appointed time has grown short’.  There is no putting off the immediacy, the urgency of the call of God to repentance.  According to Paul I cannot use my spouse, my time of mourning, rejoicing, the consumerist pursuit of possessions, or the business and distractions of our engagement with the world as an excuse.  All these things are good of course, each has their place in our priorities.  But they are all as nothing in comparison to the supreme value of the following of Christ, of living into the reign of God.  In summary, Paul says, ’’the present form of this world is passing away’’.  The form of this world, it’s patterns, priorities, way of doing things, is as ephemeral as mist, dust on the scales, dust in the wind.  Jesus has come into the world and into our lives to trans-form the form of this world and the form of our lives. This is the good news of our call and our response.