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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
 
Homilies/Reflections

Repent
By FR JULIUS OLAITAN

3RD SUNDAY YEAR B

 

REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL

 

The age-old invitation returns— repent and believe in the Gospel. Are we not tired of hearing this? It comes at the beginning  of Advent and forms the main message of the season; it comes at the beginning of Lent and runs through the season; even now in the ordinary Season, it is proclaimed, why every time? It is possible to feel like this, but the truth is that for as long as there is sin in the world, this message will not cease. God leaves open the door to repentance because he does not wish the death of the sinner but salvation for all.

 

FIRST READING (JONAH 3:1-5,10)

 

The whole book of Jonah is just four chapters and it is short enough to be read within half an hour. The very name JONAH means ‘dove’ — the symbol of peace and  anointing, a contrast to the prevailing attitude of the people of his time towards the oppressive nations around them. The work itself is placed around the time of Alexander the Great in the fourth Century B.C. It is perhaps the only writing  of the Old Testament books that expressly talks of a member of the people of God being sent out of the Holy Land to deliver a message of God’s compassion for a sinful nation. The book was written long after the destruction of Nineveh which took place in 612 BC. The message of the book remains so important in it’s openness to divine mercy, forgiveness and the universal plan of God’s salvation. (cf. Jonah 4:1; 3:10)

 

The story of Jonah looks so real that it is possible to easily enter into the picture. God called him to go to Nineveh, the great city, to call out against it because of their evil deeds but Jonah rose and decided to board a ship to Tarshish. He obviously did not want to go on that mission, the reason comes towards  the end of the book. ‘O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet still in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a “gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster…”’(Jonah 4:1-2) God however did not allow Jonah to go to Tarshish, he stirred up the sea against him and his co-travellers until they discovered that he was the problem and he pleaded that he be thrown into the sea. He would rather die than go to Nineveh. Same thing happened at the end of the book, he would rather die than live with the fact that God forgave Nineveh, “Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”(Jonah 4:3) 

 

The three days spent in the belly of the monster fish was a school for Jonah. While he thought he was going to die, he found himself picked up by a fish. There he repented of his attempt to run away from God and his mission. He was then delivered to the shore of Nineveh, where he received a second call to go forth and deliver God’s message. In haste he did, covering a distance he would have covered in three days in a day. He did the job however because to his utter amazement, the people heard him and they repented. They called for a fast, put on sackcloth, sat down in ashes and God too had mercy. God wills the salvation of all.

 

SECOND READING (1 CORINTHIANS 7:29-31)

 

Paul in this passage was writing based on his idea of imminent parousia— the immediate return of the Lord. On this foundation he writes to the Corinthians on the issue of detachment from the things of the world. He called on them to devote themselves to the Lord and live their lives in a way that reflects the imminent judgment. Paul asks them not to get engrossed in the things of the world, for the form of this world is passing away.

 

GOSPEL (MARK 1:14-20)

 

In this passage, one could see clearly the continuation in God’s plan of salvation. John’s mission and his baptism was that of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah and he pointed out Jesus to those who were with him as the ‘Lamb of God.’ Now after John had been arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God and his message was exactly that message of repentance. He took it up from where John had ended. “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.”(Mark 1:14)

 

Repentance, metanoia—turning around, is a daily call, to shun the way of sin and evil and to embrace the mercy of God. This is a Christian response to the fact that the Kingdom of God is at hand. We must appreciate the call of God to us daily by our acceptance of Baptism and the other sacraments—in particular, the sacrament of reconciliation. We must examine ourselves regularly, if the pursuit of the things of this world, or ‘my own way,’ is not becoming an obstacle in living out the commitments I took on, when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour.

 

Just as Jonah was sent out in the first reading, Jesus needed collaborators in the work of saving the world, those who will take his message out beyond Israel, to every land and bring the world home to God. To get them ready for this mission, of preaching repentance to the world, he begins to call those who will do the job. He called simple fishermen. One might wonder why he did not call the learned of the time to give a sound and intellectual foundation for the new mission, it became clear, that God needed those who can live out the faith before those who can preach it. He once said, ‘I bless you Father Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and powerful and revealing them to mere children.’

 

The universal call to salvation, invites us to look at the mercy of God who asked Jonah, why he was so concerned about one plant that provided him shade from the sun, and was not concerned about the thousands of people in Nineveh. According to Timothy, “This is right and acceptable in the sight of God, our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ (1 Tim 2:1-2) Again he says, “We have our hope in God, who is the saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.(1 Tim. 4:10) 

 

Let us all look forward to a great week with our mission being to save the world. May the Lord grant us the grace to truly live for him and for his Gospel. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen! 


 
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